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Bags of love: Jamestown boy in third year of his own food drive

Hoyt Paul, 9, collected 1,180 food items in a little over a week from his neighbors and donated the food to the Community Action Region VI Food Pantry Wednesday. Chris Olson / Forum News Service1 / 2
Each year Hoyt Paul takes a reusable shopping bag, wraps a letter around it explaining his food donation drive, and leaves it on the doorsteps of his neighbors. Since starting his donation drive in 2015, Hoyt has collect almost 2,000 pounds of food for the Community Action Region VI Food Pantry. Chris Olson / Forum News Service2 / 2

JAMESTOWN, N.D. — Hoyt Paul doesn't like the idea of people going hungry, especially around holidays like Thanksgiving.

Rather than just feeling bad for those people, 9-year-old Hoyt is doing something about it. He and his parents delivered 1,180 food items to the Community Action Region VI Food Pantry Wednesday morning, Nov. 22, food Hoyt collected from his neighbors in northwest Jamestown.

This is the third year that Hoyt has conducted his own food drive.

"He's a great kid with a big heart," said Sarah Oberlander, Community Action Region VI Food Pantry coordinator.

In 2015, Hoyt's first food drive, he brought 371 pounds of food to the pantry. He donated 736 pounds of food in 2016.

"I'm going to say this year you have probably doubled your amount again," Oberlander said to Hoyt Wednesday. "You know what is amazing is you keep going up every year. People like helping you."

Hoyt said he became inspired to help others after seeing a commercial on television that showed people going without food during the holidays.

"I don't think anybody should be hungry over the holidays," he said. "I don't like that some people may not be able to celebrate over the holidays because they don't have any food."

Hoyt said this year's collection was his biggest yet, but he wants to get more next year. Courtney Paul, Hoyt's mother, said he has talked with his parents about expanding his food drive to other parts of Jamestown next year.

"He said when he is older he wants to do work like this full time, to help people," she said.

David Paul, Hoyt's father, said Hoyt has been the driving force to do this work.

"We help him put the letter and bags together," he said.

Hoyt writes a letter at the start of each donation drive explaining what he is doing and why. He includes a reusable shopping bag so people can put nonperishable food items in the bags, then put the bags on their front steps so Hoyt can collect the donations. He designates a time and date when he will be back to collect the food.

The first year of the drive David Paul said he wasn't sure what kind of response Hoyt would get. That first year he received about 600 food items. Last year, he collected about 900 items.

Courtney Paul said Hoyt usually has 70 of the bags and the letter out by Veterans Day. This year he got the letter and bags out after the holiday, on Nov. 14. His neighbors noticed.

"People were calling and asking if he was doing the drive this year," David said. "He has a lot of support amongst our neighbors for what he is doing."

David said he walks with Hoyt when he is delivering the bags to the neighbors, but it is Hoyt who rings the doorbells and talks with people.

"I might answer a question if he needs help, but this is all him," he said.

Hoyt said one of the more unusual donations he received in his food drives was toilet paper. This year, one of his neighbors donated eight 1-gallon jugs of pasta sauces and a large box of spaghetti.

Hoyt said he plans to do a food donation drive as long as people are willing to donate food. He said he is a little self-conscious about his friends finding out about his charity work, but he wants to keep on doing it.

"It makes me feel good," he said.

Chris Olson

Hometown: Traverse City, MI College: Northwestern Michigan College and Michigan State University

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