When Mercer Island High School student Albert Lam decided to sell pencils to support the Red Cross and its Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, his goal was to raise $200. After an outpouring of donations, he upped it to $2,000. He ended up raising over $16,000.
Lam said he had never organized a major fundraiser before, but he is no stranger to community service. He’s the vice president of the MIHS Key Club, the student branch of Kiwanis, and his father, Hao, is active in the Asian community in Seattle’s International District.
Lam said that Chinese and Vietnamese families come together every year to raise money for local organizations, including the Red Cross, and for different causes. He remembers attending the fundraiser for Haiti after an earthquake struck there in 2010.
Lam was inspired to do something for Hurricane Harvey when he overheard his mother speaking to a friend from Houston on the phone.
“She asked me if I could imagine something like that happening here, and I couldn’t,” Lam said.
It was just about time to go back to school, so Lam decided to start the pencil fundraiser. Lam’s parents funded the supplies, which allowed Lam to donate all of the proceeds to the relief fund.
The pencils, monogrammed with the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund name, were sold for $5 each, but Lam said people often wanted to donate more. The largest single donation his fund received was $2,000.
Lam got the word out about the fundraiser with Facebook and email. He received many positive responses after posting a message on his school class page, even though he said it was intimidating to put himself out there initially.
He said that the takeaway was: “Don’t be afraid to take the first step.”
Interest grew after the initial post, even outside the Mercer Island community. Lam said that a 75-year-old Chinese woman went door to door in the International District, asking for donations from small businesses for his fund.
Lam said he wanted to thank the community for their generosity.
“This is not just the fruit of my labor,” he said. “This was a community effort.”
See www.redcrossnw.org for more.