East Texas teen starts benefit for local food pantry - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


East Texas teen starts benefit for local food pantry

A combination of Halloween fun and the goodness of East Texas hearts came together Saturday afternoon to help end hunger.  It all started with the dream of a 15-year-old girl who knows first hand the value of a meal.

At just 15, Jessie McDowell of Mount Pleasant wanted to do something for those who were less fortunate, so she started Pennies 4 People, a fundraiser to help the hungry.

"I created Pennies 4 People to help people that go to the food pantry and help support the food pantry," said McDowell.  "You always have pocket change, but you never really think about how much change it can make."  With a food drive, penny drive and bake sale, Saturday was called "Make A Difference Day". 

McDowell has good reasons for organizing the drive.  Two years ago her father lost his job, and the family hit hard times, fighting day to day for things we take for granted, like a home and enough to eat each day.

"Our life was like down to the bare minimum, our cupboards were bare, our dinner and lunch was Ramen noodles, it was the same every day, and it was really tough," said McDowell.  Together with Mount Pleasant businesses, family and her high school classmates, she's already collected more than $4,000, $1,000 of it in pennies.

"Nothing in the world compares to when I see a little kid walk into the food pantry, and I'm able to help the food pantry," said McDowell.  "I volunteer there, and I see that smile on there face just over a package of cool aid and see their face lights up like it's Christmas."

"Jessie really amazes me," said McDowell's mother Kris.  "I'm just excited to see where this is going to lead.  There's something that she was born with, and this is going somewhere.  She's going to do something someday."  McDowell hopes people will take stock of what they have and think of those who have much less.

"It's just the most wonderful feeling in the world to be able to help someone that was in my spot once," said McDowell.  McDowell goal is to raise more than $5,000 this year, which she will give to the Titus County Food Pantry in December.  Her Pennies 4 People donation jars can be found at various businesses in Mount Pleasant.

Bob Hallmark, Reporting. bhallmark@kltv.com


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