GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Many homeless shelters are at half capacity due to COVID-19, meaning more people without a home will not have a place to stay this winter.
That's what inspired a young Grand Rapids girl and her brother to organized a Winter Survival Drive this weekend, hoping to collect items like coats, boots, hats, gloves, sleeping pads & bags and warm blankets.
"At Dégagé, we have the statement where we say small gestures, big impact," said Nelson Koon, volunteer and development coordinator at Dégagé Ministries. "And the fact that Jojo and Hudson are leading this survival gear winter project really shows that it doesn't matter what your age is or where you're at financially or what stage of life you're in, you can make a big difference by just doing your part."
Josephine 'Jojo' Gurd, 8, and her younger brother Hudson, 7, are organizing a Winter Survival Drive for the homeless in Grand Rapids Saturday to give back to those who may be without a home this winter.
"So there's gonna be a bad winter this year, so I'm wanting to help the homeless," Josephine said.
"There's only a few homeless shelters, and there's probably more than 1000 people here in Grand Rapids that are homeless," she said. "And they're only letting 50 percent of capacity in the homeless shelters, so I'm wanting to help those people that can't go in with the donations I'm collecting."
The brother-sister duo told their parents they originally wanted to help by having a hot dog and lemonade stand.
"We realized that that was going to be quite the endeavor, with food permits, cost and, everything like that," said their dad Travis Gurd. "The kids really wanted to do an initiative to help people. We made a lot of suggestions, and they decided that they wanted to come up and do a Winter Survival Drive for the homeless."
While this might seem like a large project for two young kids, their need to do good wasn't too out of the ordinary.
"They've always had a drive to do something for people," Travis said. "They've always been looking out for people, very empathetic towards other people."
The drive will take place Saturday near Byron Center, off of Planters Row Drive and Heirloom Drive.
"We're going to be collecting hats, boots, gloves, sleeping bags and wool blankets," Jojo and Hudson said.
New, or lightly used items are being accepted for men, women and children. Donations will go to local shelters, including Dégagé Ministries and the homeless outreach team initiative with the Grand Rapids Fire Department and Police Department.
"The world has really big problems right now as we've seen in 2020, but if we all do our part, we all do what we can, where we can when we can, and makes a big difference in the lives of our people in our community," Koon said.
"As a parent, we really want to push being kind, being empathetic, being generous, being humble, and I think the biggest lesson for us as parents, is that we really need to take the time to listen to our children, because they can teach us a lot," their dad Travis said. "They can teach us a lot about empathy, and compassion. We just really need to listen to them."
"I'm wanting to have more kindness around the community and throughout the entire world," Jojo said.