Barely out of her toddler years, Z’yon Norton had a “special heart” for giving.
On her first day of preschool, she noticed a fellow girl in the class didn’t have a snack. Z’yon gave the girl her own snack that day — an act of kindness her parents didn’t find out until much later.
Her mom, Nicole Norton, said Z’yon began asking for extra snacks every day to pack for school. Nicole assumed she just wanted an extra snack at the end of the day before being picked up, until she started asking for more.
“Me and my husband noticed she would take three or four chip bags and extra Capri Suns and started asking for extra sandwiches,” she said.
When Z’yon’s parents pressed her about the curious behavior, she told them that there were kids at her school who didn’t have snacks and she felt bad for them.
“She’s one of my very passionate children,” Nicole said. “There are other kids that need it and we don’t see it, but she sees it.”
Nicole said she and her husband don’t mind buying the food and continue to purchase everything in bulk to feed Z’yon and her two older brothers.
“We don’t look at it as an extra thing; we just do it. Anyway that we can help, we try to do it,” Nicole said.
With her parents continuing to sponsor Z’yon’s goodwill, she has been packing additional snacks and lunches for her peers every day.
“Because a lot of them will just sit there and won’t have a snack and I’ll be like ‘Do you want some of this?’ and they’ll say ‘yes’,” Z’yon said. “I would like them to help them be able to eat more often.”
Now in third grade at Beverlye Intermediate School, the nine-year-old has created a way to expand her charity with weekend food packs available to students in her school through a food pantry.
“A lot of them will come back to school saying, ‘I’m so hungry, I haven’t eaten in the weekend,” Z’yon said. “So, I want to help them be able to eat on Saturdays and Sundays and be healthy and be ready to come back to school…”
Beverlye Intermediate School Principal James Williams said book bags, provided by the school for discretion, will be pre-packed with enough food for two children to eat over the weekend. They will be handed out to children who need them on Friday afternoons with the assistance of Z’yon, her brothers, and her cousin.
“There is a need,” Williams said. “We don’t want to stock it up. Our goal is to keep it moving.”
When approached about the idea three weeks ago, he thought it was awesome, he said.
“Being a new school, I thought it was really wonderful to have someone to adopt this and want to sponsor something for our children,” Williams said. “I’m really excited to know that it was birthed by a student in our building who noticed the need. That makes it really meaningful.”
When Z’yon was only 15 months, her parents said she had to have open-heart surgery at UAB for a valve repair. The doctors there told them they had never seen anything like her case and were unsure of the cause or prognosis.
They said Z’yon had a “special heart,” which is why they named their organization “Royal Special Heart Food Pantry.” The organization, which collected hundreds of food items at its first food drive over the weekend, is pending nonprofit status.
Williams and the Nortons said the hope for the pantry is that it grow and be sustained throughout the year with drives and donations.
The next food drive for non-perishable, packaged food items will be in front of Nal’s Thrift Boutique on Fortner Street from 8 a.m. to noon on Nov. 16.
Other donations can be dropped off at the front office at Beverlye Intermediate School.