Josie Robidoux

Eleven-year-old Josie Robidoux, pictured with her dad Jayson, is named The Next Door’s 2020 Philanthropist of the Year. 

The Next Door has announced their 2020 Philanthropist of the Year: Josie Robidoux, 11, of Hood River. From an early age, Josie’s parents, Jayson and Meghan Robidoux, instilled kindness and a sense of civic responsibility in their daughter.

“They always encouraged me to fight hate with love,” Josie said of her parents. For as long as she can remember, Josie’s parents have made monetary gifts to organizations that help people.

When she was 7 years old, Jayson asked Josie if she wanted to play a bigger role in their family’s giving to a local homeless shelter. Josie jumped at the chance, though she wasn’t exactly sure what he meant at that point. The next thing she knew, Josie and her dad were at the grocery story, filling a cart with soups, snacks, beans, everything.

“I was scared the basket was going to break!” Josie said, recalling how full the cart was. She then distributed the bags of food to people at the shelter herself. “It was amazing! My heart set fire,” Josie said.

Fast forward to the spring of 2020, when COVID-19 took hold in the Gorge.

“We started thinking about what we could do to spread some much needed love and joy,” said Josie. First, she thought the family might hand out flowers around town. From there, the idea transformed to building and selling wooden garden boxes and donating the proceeds to an organization that was helping people through the pandemic.

“We knew we wanted to help people,” said Josie. “Our family was doing fine, so we had the ability and flexibility to help others who were struggling.” They thought about several organizations in the Gorge they could donate to and decided on The Next Door based on its long history of helping large numbers of people.

Josie, now 11 years old, set to work. “It started out slow,” she said of box sales. However, once The Next Door began helping promote Josie’s efforts, which coincided nicely with its annual plant sale, sales took off.

When The Next Door sent an electronic newsletter with information about Josie’s boxes, “We had 22 orders within 20 minutes!” said Jayson. The outpouring of support and generosity from the community was incredible, with many customers paying more than base price for their boxes. They all recognized a quality product and a great cause.

After nearly two months of building and selling, Josie and Jayson built 32 boxes, ranging in size from 12x12-inches to 36x36-inches. In June 2020, thanks to her efforts, Josie proudly handed The Next Door over $2,000 to continue its vital services.

Josie is the youngest recipient of The Next Door’s annual Philanthropist of the Year award. She joins others the organization has named over the years, including board members and major donors. She encourages other young philanthropists, “Whatever you do, do it with love.” She recognizes that sometimes young people can feel powerless against the struggles around them, but Josie said, “Showing love is a choice. There are no age restrictions on that.”

Josie acknowledges she couldn’t have had the impact she did without the help of her parents. To other young philanthropists who want to do more, Josie encourages, “Find your helping hands.” And, of course, “Find something that excites you!”

This year, Josie has more plans to exercise her creativity and philanthropy and hopes to operate a homemade slime and gadgets stand, again donating proceeds to The Next Door, to continue to better her community.

To stay connected with Josie’s philanthropic ventures, follow The Next Door on Facebook and Instagram.