Memphis is a city full of doers and dreamers; people that want to make a difference in their city in any way they can.
When the world essentially came to a screeching halt as COVID-19 struck, so many people were left without jobs, food and other essentials. It has been an extremely unfortunate and difficult situation… but there has been hope. Folks stepped forward and wanted to help. And one of them is only 14 years old.
Sydney Shanker comes from generations of family that always put others first. It’s in her blood. That’s really all she has ever known. Her mom, Jill, explained, “Sydney has always been a helper. Even back in preschool she was always the one welcoming a new friend or offering to do things.”
A rising 9th grader at St. Mary’s Episcopal School, she is constantly involved in volunteering. She has been part of the Jewish Foundation of Memphis’ B’nai Tzedek teen philanthropy program, which teaches those involved the importance of giving back to the community and being a leader.
When the pandemic started, she knew she wanted to do something. She has always been taught to be grateful for how fortunate she is to have plenty of food, a roof over her head and other things that many people don’t. She heard a quote on TV that inspired her. “Those who needed the food bank before will need it more than ever, and those who have never been to a food bank in their life, will need it now too.” Those words made her stop and think.
Then string by syd was born. String bracelets were something she has always loved to do, ever since 3rd grade. She’d make them at camp and for her friends, so it was already something she was accustomed to doing. Her parents knew something was up when she asked permission to start a new Instagram account (after all, she is only 14!).
Sydney came up with the entire plan herself… to make bracelets, keychains, etc. and donate 100% of the proceeds to the Mid-South Food Bank. Each order is custom made and can take anywhere from one hour to four hours to complete and range in price from $8 – $20, depending on the details. She has donated about $500 so far, and as the word spreads, the amount will only continue to rise.
Besides her family, Sydney mentioned that Ellen DeGeneres is someone she looks up to because of her “be kind to one another” motto. She actually went to LA over spring break with her mom and grandmother and went to the Ellen show. The day they were flying back is when everything shut down due to the virus. Talk about meant to be…
When she has free time, she plays volleyball, loves art and has played guitar for the past five years. As for when she’s older, Sydney hopes to become either a child psychologist or a lawyer, because she truly wants to help people.
This level of dedication and selflessness at such a young age makes Sydney such an inspiration to those around her, the local community, the entire city of Memphis and beyond. Sydney said, “My mom always tells me, ‘As long as we are helping someone, we are good’.”
I honestly can’t think of better words for us to live by.
She would be so grateful for more people to join her in supporting this cause. Her Instagram account is, @string_by_syd, and there you can check out her work and place an order.
Sydney is making a big difference one string at a time and this community is blessed to have her in it.