NEW PALESTINE — The coats, hats, gloves and scarfs were gently placed on the branches of trees and bushes in Veteran’s Memorial Plaza in downtown Indianapolis — just in time for the coldest weather of the season.
The children putting the items out to give away did so with hopes each one would find a person in need this winter and help keep them warm.
The do-gooders call themselves Friends4Good, a group of New Palestine elementary and middle school students formed three years ago that tries to do something positive for others at least once a month. Last weekend, the group took part in “Branches of Blessings,” a charity effort aimed at providing basic winter weather clothing to those who might not be able to escape to the warmth of the indoors.
The Friends4Good group posted signs, along with the winter wear, stating, “Take me, I’m free,” to let passers-by know it was OK to help themselves.
“It was really neat seeing people get them,” said Bailey Young, Doe Creek Middle School seventh-grader. “I like making people smile.”
Bailey started the Friends4Good group when she was in elementary school three years ago. Her brother, Sean Young, a fourth-grader at Sugar Creek Elementary School, watched his sister’s efforts and wanted to help out. Now, he and many of his friends have joined the group.
Bailey and Sean’s mother, Kelly Young, said the group that traveled to Indianapolis recently for the giveaway enjoyed the experience and gained an appreciation for their own blessings as they encountered those who often go without.
It’s important for the students to understand the many challenges people in the community face, including homelessness, Young said.
The students collected the items for the giveaway themselves. Friends4Good families collected coats, hats and more from area families, and they even had some people they didn’t know from New Palestine reach out and make a donation after hearing about the project.
“I was completely overwhelmed,” Young said. “These kids and this community, have big hearts and want to do good.”
The students said it was an eye-opening experience.
Nicholas Barada, a fourth-grader at Sugar Creek Elementary School said he felt good knowing he was making a difference. He was particularly moved when a homeless man came and started collecting things for children he told the group live near him, under a bridge.
He thanked the students for their help and shared his story with them, saying he became homeless two years ago because of a medical condition. He had no family to turn to, he said.
The young helper reflected on his own blessings.
“I have my own home and parents who can get me food,” Nicholas said.
The man shared with the students that he lives in a tent because he doesn’t like the crowds in homeless shelters. He likes to help other homeless people find food and get things they need, he said.
“His story had a true impact on the children,” Young said. “I think it’s an opportunity — and maybe our responsibility to educate our kids about some of the challenges people less fortunate face.”