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12-year-old launches nonprofit organization to inspire others to 'make a change'

Published: Saturday, Jan. 9 2016 4:00 p.m. MST

Armani McFarland is interviewed in Farr West on Friday, Jan. 8, 2016. She has created a nonprofit called One Can Make a Change. Her latest project is to gather 8,000 pairs of jeans to help those in need.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

FARR WEST, Weber County — Earlier this week, at a table in a restaurant in Riverdale, Armani McFarland led the inaugural meeting of the new nonprofit organization "One Can Make A Change."

Co-founder Armani addressed the organization's goal, mission statement, upcoming events "and how they can help" with the newly constituted board of directors, five people ranging in age from their 30s to their 60s.

Then she went home to do homework and study for one of three tests she had Friday at Wahlquist Junior High School, where she is a seventh grader.

"She is absolutely not your typical 12-year-old. She's absolutely incredible. It's really cool what she's done," said board member Mike Brosnon, general manager of Goodwood Barbecue Company.

"It definitely takes a special person to do this. Personally, I wish I was more like her."

Armani has been involved in charitable causes half of her life. It started with her sixth birthday, when she asked her family, instead of giving her gifts, to donate to World Vision, an Evangelical Christian humanitarian aid, development and advocacy organization.

Two years later, Armani organized a food drive that collected 1,000 pounds of food for Catholic Community Services of Utah’s Joyce Hansen Hall Food Bank in Ogden.

In the succeeding years, she has orchestrated 18 donation drives to collect toys, coats, toothpaste and brushes, and stuffed animals for first responders to give to children they encounter when responding to emergencies and police calls.

Then there's the school backpack drive she has conducted the past four years, which involves raffles, bake sales, lemonade stands and a barbecue program at Goodwood Barbecue. To drum up even more interest, she said she has designs on adding a car show to the event to draw a bigger crowd.

This past year, she raised enough money to supply 1,066 backpacks full of supplies for needy children, nearly a ten-fold increase from the first year.

Presently, she's collecting new and clean, gently used jeans that will be given to homeless teens. Armani has placed collection barrels at businesses, schools and even Army recruiting offices from Sandy to Logan. Her goal is to collect 8,000 pairs of jeans by mid-February.

Although she's just in her first year of junior high, Armani is adept at fundraising, organizing events and "the ask."

She has twice been honored by Catholic Community Services of Utah and she was recently recognized at the Utah Philanthropy Day luncheon as the state's outstanding young volunteer.

While Armani's drives and fundraising events have been highly successful, she and her mother Cassidy McFarland, who assists her daughter's philanthropic pursuits, said they decided the charitable works would be more effective if they created a nonprofit organization.

To raise the registration fees, the McFarlands established a GoFundMe account. Carie Valentin, an attorney who is a family acquaintance, donated her legal services to form the nonprofit organization.

Because Armani is a minor, she and her mother share the roles of president and executive director of the organization. "Once she turns 18, I will fall off," Cassidy McFarland said.

The organization is less than a month old, but Armani is already dreaming up ways the organization can help. "I'm hoping it will be a big thing when I get older, actually running this nonprofit," she said.

"That or a school teacher in a low-income neighborhood," her mother added.

For now, Armani is focused on the jeans drive. If she reaches her goal, her school is eligible for a grant and she could win a scholarship.

Weber State University's Department of Social Work and Gerontology has asked her to speak to its students this term.

Armani said anyone can give the gift of service or make small contributions that make a big difference to people who are struggling to make ends meet.

That philosophy was the inspiration for the name of her nonprofit organization "One Can Make a Change."

"I want other people to help in any way they can. It doesn't have to be a big thing that they do, but just something little in their every day life. Just help somebody," she said.

"And donate some jeans to the homeless!"

Jeans drive

New or clean, gently worn jeans can be dropped off at:

  • Mountain America Credit Union branches at 735 S. State, Salt Lake City; 1284 E. 10600 South, Sandy; 955 W. Antelope Drive, Layton; 1727 W. 1800 North, Clinton; 455 40th Street, South Ogden; 321 W. 2nd Street, Ogden
  • Army Recruiting offices at 3585 Harrison Boulevard, Ogden; 5629 S. 1900 West, Roy; 165 E. 1400 North, Suite A-4, Logan
  • Goodwood Barbecue, 4237 Riverdale Road, Riverdale
  • Elite Gymnastics 3183 S. Harrison Boulevard, Ogden
  • Striders Running Store, 1937 N. 400 East, Ogden
  • Toes in the Sand, 920 W. 250 North, Marriott-Slaterville
  • Weber State University

Email: marjorie@deseretnews.com

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