GOBLES, Mich. — Three years ago, Samuel VerHage collected 320 blankets for the homeless men and women in Kalamazoo. He saw them walking around downtown Kalamazoo in the cold that year when he and his mom were at an event.
“I saw some homeless people carrying all their stuff around,” said the 11-year-old during an interview at his home. “I thought maybe they can use warmth in the winter.”
That year he passed out the blankets at Martin Luther King Jr. Park on Rose Street. He did it again the following year, collecting and passing out 906 blankets which surpassed his goal of 400. Now this year he wants to exceed his goal of 800 blankets and top 1,000.
“Everything that we get is either donated, or sometimes we buy them,” Samuel said. “But most of it is donated.”
VerHage’s mother Denise said most of the items are dropped off in donations boxes at 15 different locations throughout the area and surrounding counties.
“We get a lot of handmade blankets,” said Denise about their most popular item. “Last year the homeless told us that really meant a lot to them. For some reason there’s a personal meaning with that.”
She added that whenever they pick up the blankets, they place them in a storage unit donated to them by a local business. In fact, all of their donation boxes were given to them, and the logo of their project Samuel’s Blankets for the Homeless was created for free. The response to what they're doing has been overwhelming, Denise said.
“A couple days ago we got a donation from a group of ladies,” said Denise about a $500 check sent to them from an anonymous group. “They had seen Samuel’s story and were just really blessed by what he’s doing, and so they wanted their donation to go to him this year.”
Samuel said he’s collecting the blankets for a few more weeks. The day after Thanksgiving, he and Denise are returning to MLK Park to hand them out to any homeless person who walks by, including people from low-income families. Samuel's ultimate goal is to make sure every homeless person has a blanket of their own.
“He thinks about them all the time, and not just when we’re collecting blankets but all winter long,” Denise said. “It’s really a special thing to have a kid that really has a heart like that.”