Larry Jones and his family are putting their care for the community into action.
Jones moved to Federal Way in 1996 after he and his family lived in the Philippines for 25 years. After living in Southeast Asia, the family saw firsthand the means of living in extreme poverty, he said.
After most of his trips back to the Philippines to visit family, Jones found himself with foreign currency tucked into pockets or forgotten about inside his suitcase. The minor amounts began to pile up, and Jones developed the idea of a nonprofit charity.
Federal Way-based Foreign Currency for Kids, in which Jones is the founder and director, is a local organization accepting only foreign currencies. The funds are collected and used toward providing community service jobs to teens, or repatriated to families in the currency’s home country if it is unable to be exchanged in the United States.
With the challenges of the pandemic, the funds have now been used to support the Jones family’s monthly food pack donations. Jones and his family are the Mirror’s Hometown Heroes for January.
The idea was born from his grandkids: to make snack packs and hand them out to people experiencing homelessness in Federal Way and nearby cities.
All six of the cousins (of walking age) in the Jones family wanted to participate, and thus began their monthly food pack giveaway in December 2020 where they gave out 120 food and beverage packages near the Tacoma Rescue Mission. Most recently, the Jones family donated about 150 snack packs to community members on Jan. 17.
With some adult supervision, the kids pack each donation bag themselves, then the family spends the following Sunday greeting members of the community and providing much-needed care in the form of food.
While the first event was fun for the kids, they wanted to continue helping the community on a monthly basis, Jones said.
“It was really fulfilling to see the smiles on those people’s faces. The kids were thrilled, and you could see they were sincere,” Jones said. “Whether we get donations or not, we’re still going to keep this going.”
Their tradition has become something the kids look forward to each month, and a valuable lesson to teach generosity throughout the generations.
“This is what we need these days,” Jones said. “We need kindness and compassion, and we have to pass it down to the little ones. Maybe you can’t change the world, but you’re doing your part.”
For more information or to donate your unused foreign currency, visit foreigncurrencyforkids.org.