WTOP Top Kid: McLean teen’s major project helps neighbors in need

Sophia Sears, left, with her crew during a food drive in McLean. (Courtesy Sophia Sears)

A 14-year-old from McLean, Virginia, is making an extraordinary difference in her community by helping hundreds of families who need some extra help during the coronavirus pandemic.

High School freshman Sophia Sears said her group needed to figure out a goal, a time and a place — which took a few weeks of planning, “but it was worth it and it was really fun.”

She told WTOP’s Melissa Howell that it was important because she loves her community.

“I want to try to help as much as I can,” Sears said. “And during the pandemic, people might have been laid off from jobs, so it’ll be harder to get food on the table. And since there’s even more people who don’t have enough money to support themselves, there’s going to be less food in the pantry. So we wanted to try to help them to make sure they put food on their tables.”

Sophia Sears at right. (Courtesy Sophia Sears)

Sears’ efforts were done in conjunction with St. John’s Episcopal Church. She said it was rewarding to make a difference in so many people’s lives.

“I’ve done food donations before. I’ve never led one before on such a scale,” Sears said. “It was really good. I really enjoyed it. And everyone else helping enjoyed the experience as well.”

Sears said communication was key, especially during the pandemic.

But anyone — and everyone — can help those in need.

“You just have to have the drive, the time, the patience,” Sears said, “especially doing communication, and the knowledge about what’s happening, what you want to do, how you do it safely, especially during COVID, and to make sure as many people hear about it as possible.”

She added that it’s better for people to start donating now so that food pantries can stock their shelves ahead of time.

WTOP’s Melissa Howell contributed to this report.

This article is part of WTOP’s TOP Kids program, where kids in the D.C. area are recognized for the amazing things they do. The winners are awarded $500. The program is sponsored by Northwest Federal Credit Union. Nominate a TOP Kid you know here, and view other winners here.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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