Ten-year-old Annika Marks is spearheading a collection of paper products, such as paper towels, tissues and toilet paper, during the West Cape May Christmas Parade on Saturday, Dec. 1.

The drive will benefit the Cape May Food Closet, located in the First Presbyterian Church of Cape May.

Marks, of Rio Grande, said she came up with the idea after watching the Boys Scouts of America's annual food collection during the Thanksgiving Day Parade aired each year on Channel 6 ABC in Philadelphia.

"I was thinking Christmas is coming and people might be able to get food and things they need to celebrate the holiday without help," Marks said.

After presenting the idea to the city and the food closet, she said she learned that the pantry is specifically in need of paper products. Since other organizations and groups in the area already were planning to host a food drive for the food closet, Marks agreed to focus her collection on the paper products. Though nonperishable food donations will still be accepted.

Marks has been rallying friends to help her with the project, including her 12-year-old cousin Mackenzi Marks, also of Rio Grande. The children will be pushing shopping carts along the parade route Saturday and parade attendees can put the donations inside.

Acme Markets of Cape May is lending Marks shopping carts to use, as well as donating three cardboard boxes filled with paper products to help get them started.

The parade paper-product drive isn't the first community service project the Marks cousins have completed. Over the past three years, the girls have raised money for Muscular Dystrophy Association, which in turn goes toward sending children with Muscular Dystrophy to a special summer camp. They raised the money by playing their musical instruments outside of area businesses and have raised more than $7,000 for the association.

Annika said community service makes her happy.

"I don't do it to get famous," she said. "I do it because I know if I do this. I can make another little girl who is less fortunate than me happy. I just want to make people happy."

Her mother, Tammy, said she believes it's a parent's job to teach their children to be compassionate and caring people, for the good of the world's future.

"These are the years that will predict the kinds of adults they will be," Tammy said of her daughter and niece, "and I couldn't be prouder of the path they're on."

Contact Elisa Lala:

609-463-6713

How to help

Bring donations of paper products, (such as paper towels, tissues, toilet paper, etc.) and non-perishable food items to the West Cape May Christmas parade Saturday, Dec. 1.

The parade starts at 5 p.m. at the West Cape May Fire House, 732 Broadway, marches south on Broadway and winds east on Perry, and onto Carpenter Lane in Cape May.