Colorado Springs Gazette – by Debbie Kelley
Wearing a spunky red velvet Santa dress her grandma bought, 7-year-old Ashley Scott delivers this insightful yuletide decree: “The homeless need a Merry Christmas, too.”
Ashley is making sure they get one.
“I feel sad for them,” Ashley said. “Doing this makes me feel happy.”
The Rockrimmon Elementary second-grader started a small-scale holiday benefit for the homeless last year. This year, Kids Care Too has grown into a community-wide project.
Ashley and her mom, Anne Turnbaugh, ran the whole production last year. The pair baked cookies and used some of their holiday spending money to buy blankets, socks and gloves.
On Christmas Eve, they walked up and down Tejon Street and Nevada Avenue in downtown Colorado Springs and handed out bags of presents to people who looked like they could use them.
Two people gave Ashley stuffed animals in return. One did a magic trick for her.
“Some people gave me hugs,” Ashley said.
“She said, ‘Mom, giving is awesome,'” Turnbaugh said.
This year, about 20 businesses – as well as Ashley’s school – are joining the effort.
Companies such as Green Leaf Partners, whose Rockrimmon apartment complex is home to about 400 residents, are allowing Ashley to place large donation boxes in their lobbies.
“Every year we do something, and when Ashley and her mom approached us this year, we said of course we’d like to help,” said complex manager Tracey Dumol.
Ashley and her elves are decorating the cardboard donation boxes with Christmas wrapping paper in Green Leaf’s showroom and a flier explaining the project.
The benefit caught the attention of Marc Shutto, owner of Above All Cleaning and Restoration, based in Denver.
“I love the idea,” he said. “I like the fact that a kid started it. That melts my heart, and I wanted to give.”
Shutto will provide a delivery truck and helpers to help hand out gift bags on Christmas Eve. The distribution again will happen on the streets of downtown Colorado Springs and is expanding to Pueblo.
Turnbaugh said the idea is to reach homeless people who don’t use shelters.
The mother-and-daughter duo gave away 15 stuffed bags last holiday season and are expecting many more to assemble this year.
A former Special Forces member donated 25 Army poncho liners and sets of hats and gloves and socks. So that’s 25 bags right there.
Another individual made a $100 donation.
“The response has been really amazing,” Turnbaugh said. “A little girl has inspired others to work with her. All the businesses have been so supportive.”
Ashley’s school has joined the cause. The Rockrimmon Elementary Junior United Nations Council unanimously voted to sponsor Kids Care Too as a school-wide event. Rockrimmon Elementary, in Academy School District 20, is an International Baccalaureate school with a focus on children actively caring for their community.
The Colorado Springs Young Professionals and the Urban Singletrack Project agreed to be partners and support the young leaders.
Collection boxes will be set up at the school during the first week of December.
“It’s important for kids to know that just because people are homeless doesn’t mean they’re different,” Turnbaugh said. “You don’t have to be afraid of them. We try to treat everyone with love and respect.”
Kids Care Too is accepting donations of cold-weather necessities such as socks, blankets, gloves, hats, soap, hygiene kits, snacks, dog food, bottled water and other items that people living on the streets may find useful.
More details can be found on a Facebook donation page, https://www.facebook.com/donate/2018158221788843.