Be careful what you ask for. We all know the saying that indicates you may get more than you bargained for if your request is granted. For Zachary Petty, this was exactly the case when he noticed several items left behind for the summer in the lost and found bin at his school.

“At the end of the year, there were still a lot of jackets left. I asked my mom if we could donate them, and she said to go ask Mrs. (Mary) Derrick, my principal,” Zachary said. “My mom took me to different schools, I asked the principals if I could have the jackets to donate them to people that need them, and they said yes.”

Making this his community service project as the reigning Junior Mister Rabbit Fest, Zachary collected more than 400 jackets, one industrial-size bag of gym clothing, two bags of regular clothing, 24 pairs of shoes, 14 backpacks, 33 lunch boxes, and 19 pairs of glasses in addition to lots of school supplies. Before he knew it, the 48-inch-tall second-grader had collected so many items the pile stood taller than him.

At age 7, the Mae Stevens Elementary School student didn’t do the project by himself. Driving him to six different schools to collect the lost-and-found items, Zachary’s mother, Brandy Petty, said the project turned into something bigger than everyone had anticipated.

“There were multiple trips to schools and back home with car loads full of donations, six hours washing and folding clothes, and loading clean jackets from ceiling to seat. It was definitely clear that this was a pretty big undertaking for a first-grader,” she said. “The most challenging task was the actual labor of it all. He’s only 7. So having to carry, push, and fold that much laundry all in a short time period was pretty exhausting.

“Fortunately, his siblings and I were there to help. The schools have a ton of roll carts handy being the end of the school year, and people at the laundromat generously offered their assistance as well. There was a lot of teamwork in place.”

After doing about 10 loads of laundry at home, Zachary asked his mom if they could take the soiled items to the Laundromat.

“We hopped in the car and drove right over to Wells Laundry, which generously agreed to provide all the washing and drying for free. It was great to see people in the community so willing to help,” Petty said.

Laundromat owner Kenny Wells said he did not hesitate to help the youngster once his mom explained the project.

“It’s certainly a good cause. He’s only 7 years old and motivated to do this community service. If everyone did these kinds of things, the world would be a better place,” Wells said. “The young man was inspiring, and it was a privilege to provide the services.”

Wells said Zachary washed and dried 800 pounds of laundry. With that many items, Zachary then had to decide where he would distribute them. Some clothing, glasses and shoes went to a needy family in Killeen. Gym clothes from Copperas Cove Junior High went to the YMCA. Cove House also received a donation with the largest donation of 272 jackets going to the Refuge Corporation.

Zachary still has almost 200 jackets he hopes to donate to a military organization since his dad is in the Army, and more donations are still coming in. When asked if he would do the project again next year, Zachary replied, “I don’t know. I might need someone with a truck next time.”

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