Riley and Marley Hartgraves

Marley and Riley Hartgraves

2020 Amazing Kids - The Wilsonville Spokesman
Age: 11 & 9
School: Boeckman Creek Primary School
Hometown: Wilsonville, Or
Why they're Amazing: Marley and Riley are happy to volunteer in their community, whether that be serving lunches at the community center or providing meals to the homeless at their church.

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Marley and Riley Hartgraves, Wilsonville residents and students at Boeckman Creek Primary School, say that one of the biggest drawbacks of the COVID-19 pandemic has been that they’ve had to spend their days playing board games and completing homework assignments inside rather than volunteering in their community. 

“We really want to be helping people now,” says Marley, who is 11 years old. “When we see homeless people, we want to be giving them food now, but we can’t really because this has been happening.” 

Whether it be serving lunches to seniors at the Wilsonville Community Center, providing a Thanksgiving feast to homeless Wilsonville residents at their local church or helping their grandmother run the bookstore at the Wilsonville Public Library, the Hartgraves have been consistent volunteers in town for the past few years. They also recently provided a bit of artistic joy to help people get through the pandemic. 

The sisters moved back to their mother, Stephanie Hartgraves,’ hometown of Wilsonville in 2016. Since then, with the encouragement of their grandmother Suzy Sivyer, they quickly began their volunteer work. 

Marley and Riley serve food like meatloaf, vegetables, and strawberries to seniors who attend the weekly lunch at the community center. Stephanie says they’re usually the only youth in attendance, and Marley and Riley enjoy interacting with the seniors. Marley and Riley tell them about what they’re learning in school while the seniors talk about their interests. Apparently, many of them are swimmers, Marley says. “You get to hear conversations and hear stories of how things were back in the olden days,” Stephanie says. 

At an annual Thanksgiving dinner at St. Cyril’s Church, Marley and Riley help set the table and serve the food. These meals are well attended by the homeless population in town.

“It feels good to make them happy because they don’t have anywhere to live and don’t have food. “Watching their faces when they get food, I feel really good,” says Riley, who is 9 years old. 

Stephanie says these experiences have provided her children a lens into how fortunate they are, a message that she says doesn’t always hit home until you interact with the underprivileged personally. 

“You can’t expect them to understand that context until you show them and give them that perspective,” she says. “With the different volunteering opportunities, they’ve been able to gain some of that perspective.” 

At the library, the Hartgraves work the cash register and help customers find books. They also help collect bottles annually to fundraise for their local softball team. 

Though they couldn’t volunteer during the pandemic due to the closure of facilities like the library and community center, the Hartgraves found another way to spread goodwill. The sisters painted “love and happiness” rocks with designs like hearts and flowers and accompanied them with uplifting messages before placing them across town. The hope was for people’s spirits to be lifted when they came across the rocks. “Painting rocks is really fun and people are happy when they find one,” Riley says. 

In the future, Marley wants to volunteer to assist the homeless in other ways and also to help animals. Later on, Marley wants to be a veterinarian or a marine biologist, while Riley aspires to start a donut shop with a friend. Regardless of what they do, Stephanie believes these volunteering experiences will help her daughters in the long run. 

“Being able to get that experience of feeling how good it feels to serve others has been really important,” she says.