For Zakary Landers and cousins Brandon and Samantha Walsh, collecting donations for the Bonney Lake Food Bank has become a Christmas Eve tradition.
It started six years ago when the trio was in eighth grade, handing out hot chocolate with the help of their friends and family to those driving through the Sky Island housing development to look at Christmas lights.
Now that Zakary is in his freshman year at Western Washington, Samantha in her sophomore year at Eastern Washington, and Brandon preparing to transfer to Pierce College, the tradition of serving hot chocolate for donations has continued during a time that would normally be spent catching up with family and friends.
“It’s grown every year,” said Ruth Landers, Zakary’s mother and Samantha and Brandon’s aunt. “Proceeds go to the Bonney Lake Food Bank. Last year, we gave $294 and a truckload of canned food.”
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Total, the family estimates it has been able to donate nearly $700 for their local food bank throughout the last six years at their hot chocolate stand.
“People line up in their cars to get hot chocolate when they’re driving thru looking at Christmas lights,” Samantha Walsh said. “Last year, our hot chocolate line was three- or four-houses long.”
In the first few years of their hot chocolate stand, it meant a lot of tweaking and perfecting their system of getting the hot beverages out to friends, neighbors and strangers. After six years, they have their system down to a science.
“We’ve perfected it over the years,” Ruth Landers said. “We now have a vat we keep the hot chocolate in, and we have cups with lids.”
For Samantha, a nursing major at EWU, it’s a fun way to give back to her community.
“I do it because I think it’s important to help out the community as much as you can,” she said. “Especially during the holidays.”
For Zakary, it’s the time he gets to spend with his family.
“It’s fun doing it, and I really like that I get to hang out with my family,” he said.
No donation is required for the hot chocolate, as the trio sees it as a way of giving back, but they still encourage cash or canned food donations.
“It’s helping everybody who isn’t as fortunate as we are,” Ruth said. “The kids have a lot of fun doing it, too.”
Zakary, Brandon and Samantha will be out selling out chocolate from 6 to 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve at 10110 181st Avenue East in Bonney Lake.