remembers well the day in November 2008 when he first heard from Charlene Hunt, the person in charge of watching over the homeless children in the Folsom Cordova Unified School District.
Charlene had stumbled upon Ryan online, where he had established a vibrant website in support of his neighborhood, Cordova Towne. She told Ryan there was a lot of need in the community, and would he be able to help?
When Ryan and Charlene did meet face-to-face, Charlene showed Ryan a tattered, disgusting, remnant of a shoe. This, she said, was what one of the students she was watching over, had to wear to school.
"My heart was broken,"
he told us.
That was the day Project 680
Project 680 was a simple, grassroots effort to collect a pair of socks for every child in Rancho Cordova schools documented as "homeless." There were 680 of them at the time, and the number is now up to 783.
Not all homeless kids live under highway overpasses. They are children who have been identified as having no fixed, regular and adequate residence. They include couch surfers, hotel dwellers, kids who live in the streets, in tents, an RV in a parking lot or a home without power or water. They live here.
Project 680 was a drive to collect a pair of socks for each of them. It was done without money, without government subsidies, without movie star endorsements, without fancy campaigns. It started with Ryan's Cordova Towne website where his neighbors responded, and it grew... and grew.
The result of Project 680 was collection of 3,144 pairs of socks. A simple item that brings comfort to a place where there is none.
From socks, Ryan and Project 680 moved on to underwear with similar results. Last spring, Project 680 proudly announced they had gathered 3,198 pairs of underwear... and were moving on to shoes.
Along the way, Ryan's little group of caring people had begun to grow, too. Now, in addition to church groups and Girl Scout Troops, businesses and neighborhood associations had joined the growing circle. City employees, school groups, the Monday Night Midnight Mamas Book Club and more had joined the parade of givers.
Households at Mather, in the Cordova Gardens and Cordova Meadows areas were offered up as drop-off points. They were quickly joined by neighbors in Sunriver, White Rock and more. In Folsom, Girl Scout Troop 24 joined the cause.
By November of 2009, Ryan's small army was busily organizing a Community Bike Ride to raise money to put shoes on homeless kids. At $5 a rider or $10 per family, the "Riding for Shoes"
excursion was fun, and successful.
The goal was to raise $1500. When the bikes finally came to a stop, donations from those who pedaled and those who simply donated had totaled $3,600. Ryan then helped stretch the dollars by working with Payless Shoes for discounts on purchases.
Ryan Lundquist says that Project 680 is all about discovering practical ways to support local students. He and his supporters say they are constantly on the look out for small ways to help -- that pack a big wallop.
Ryan had this to say about what he is doing: "Advocating for local homeless students does not require a degree in rocket science, but only a willing heart to love in simple ways."
He is also fond of quoting another person who felt the same way, the famously simple Mother Theresa: "We can do no great things, only small things with great love,"
Ryan is a leader in his neighborhood of Cordova Towne, where he moderates the Cordova Towne e-group, an email exchange for those who subscribe. He has been described as a "gentle moderator" who asks for help and gets it.
From graffiti abatement to a pumpkin drop from his second story window to encourage Christmas light displays, Ryan keeps his neighbors engaged and informed.
Ryan, you are an outstanding example of a loving and gentle leader of our community. You never demand, instead you motivate. And while your kindness is felt in every home of the Cordova Towne Neighborhood which you have helped to transform, your focus on the neediest of children in our community truly inspires.
Many individuals, organizations, churches and businesses have contributed to Project 680, but you have been the catalyst for all of it. Your love, your Distinguished Service to Youth, has made the lives of these individuals sweeter and strengthens us as a community of people. You arouse in us the desire to help, then show us how to do it.
In your quietness, you roar.