Anisa Rodriguez added a notebook to a tote bag that was already stuffed with several other items, from a package of dry Ramen noodles, to soap, toothbrush and toothpaste and a T-shirt.
Then the 13-year-old repeated her actions several more times. She's part of a leadership group for middle school girls that spent several hours Monday -- Martin Luther King Jr. Day -- volunteering at My Friends Place, the Tri-Cities' only teen homeless shelter.
The girls assembled the bags for homeless youths around the Tri-Cities and also baked cookies and performed other tasks.
"We really wanted the girls to understand the concept behind serving your community," said Kimberly Williams, coordinator of the Emerging Young Leaders program. "It's important for them to understand the legacy of Dr. King -- that you're not just here in your own little bubble -- you really should be of service to your community."
Emerging Young Leaders is a signature program of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the oldest Greek-lettered sorority started by African-American college women. The local graduate chapter of the sorority is called Psi Nu Omega.
About 30 girls from Pasco School District middle schools participate in the program. The focus is educational enrichment, leadership development, civic engagement and character building, Williams told the Herald.
Washington River Protection Solutions and the Kennewick Elks lodge offer financial support.
Anisa, a McLoughlin Middle School seventh-grader, said she enjoys participating. "I like being with some of my friends and hanging out and doing leadership stuff. And it's really cool helping out the community," she said as she worked.
Paula Franco, 12, a seventh-grader at Stevens Middle School, agreed, saying the program is interesting, with a lot of activities.
It teaches about respect, she said, adding it felt good to be helping at My Friends Place.
The Kennewick shelter opened in 2011. Youths can stay the night or drop-in for a hot meal, shower and brief respite. The shelter recently has been seeing five to 15 in a given week.
The Psi Nu Omega sorority chapter has members from the Tri-Cities, Spokane, Pullman and Moscow, Idaho. Carmento Floyd, wife of Washington State University President Elson Floyd, is the president. She was at My Friends Place on Monday with the leadership group.
"We think this is a wonderful project for us," she said of the shelter work, noting it provided a small way to give back to some of the community's youngest and neediest residents.
Precious Perry, 13, a seventh-grader at McLoughlin, said she was happy to spend the day off from school volunteering.
She said she likes helping people.
And, "I like that they have this place for kids that are homeless," Precious said. "They can be safe."
-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @saraTCHerald