I hope my kids are as generous and kind hearted as Mariah Smith. Here is her story:
Early October last year I was at a sonic with my mother and saw a homeless man nearby. He was crouched down on the ground and had a little cart with him that had bags tied to it. He had a very deep croupy cough… it was heartbreaking. It’s hard to describe what went through my mind at that time, but all I knew is that I wanted to do something to help him. I looked in the back seat and saw that we had a blanket. I grabbed the blanket and food we had ordered and took it to him. He immediately wrapped the blanket around himself and started eating.
I had never seen a homeless person before so to say that I was horrified… is an understatement. On the way home all I did was cry. When I got home I went to our linen closet and saw blankets that I did not even recognize… I knew what I needed to do. I made a flier with our phone number asking for donations of used blankets.
Within a week I had distributed over 300 fliers to every hotel at the waterfront, local businesses, Schools, and Churches.
I had never really known the true meaning of hunger until I saw the way that man ate what I had given him. He was starving. After seeing that, I wanted to make sure that with every blanket we also gave a brown bag lunch. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich, bag of chips, cookies, piece of fruit and a bottle of water that they can refill.
I know that a blanket and a lunch does not seem like much.. but to someone who is hungry and sleeping on the ground.. it is the difference between being hungry and cold.. or not.
The first time we went out was the hardest. It was not hard finding the homeless, because if you are looking for them they are not hard to find. The hard part was trying to keep our emotions under control. I did not want to be crying while handing them a lunch and blanket. I wanted them to have the dignity that they deserve.
Originally, we started in Virginia Beach but soon expanded to Norfolk and Chesapeake. We drive all over looking for the homeless community. They really are a community and look out for each other. They are always asking us to help their friends and tell us where we can find them. So, we go help them… and then they tell us about their friends…and the cycle just keeps going.
We have learned a lot about the homeless shelters and how they work. That is why we don’t go to the shelters. We deliver directly to the people on the streets. The shelters only hold so many…so, we try and target the people who are not fortunate enough to get into a shelter.
Blankets for the Homeless is only 12 months old, but to date we have handed out over 10,000 blankets and lunches. We also collect and distribute coats, hoodies, hats, scarves, gloves, sweatshirts, backpacks, walking shoes etc., anything they need we try to find a way to get it for them.
I was born and abandoned on Christmas Eve 18 years ago. So, when I was born I guess you could say that I was homeless too.
My foster mother adopted me when I was 2 years old. My parents are amazing and have given me an incredible life and home..I feel so fortunate and BLESSED to have that love and security when my future was so uncertain at first.
I want to help the homeless because I want them to know that someone truly cares. I hope that what we are doing brings awareness to something so tragic…..being homeless. I am just one girl and look what I was able to do.
I challenge every teen to do something to help the homeless. Go to your principal and ask to have a blanket and food drive. Go to your Church. Talk to your parents and see if they have any ideas. Maybe they can get their work involved.
Spread the word. I have been invited to speak at Churches, Schools, and Businesses and would be happy to come to speak at yours about how you can join us in our mission to help the Homeless.
I graduated High School last year and now I am going to TCC. We stopped counting at 10,000 but its probably around 15,000 blankets and lunches along with everything else we distribute.
We will also come and pick up any items donated and distribute them…you can make a difference!