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Hats for the Homeless

From The Free Press - www.kinston.comDecember 25, 2014 by Jennifer Shrader/Managing Editor, Wes Wolfe/Staff Writer

On a warm Christmas Eve more fitting with late April than late December, Kinston High School student Chris Suggs, flanked by his fellow students, delivered a box full of winter hats, gloves and earmuffs to the Friends of the Homeless shelter. The effort was coined “Hats for the Homeless” by Suggs.

The unusually warm weather won’t continue, and soon people will be in need of the little things that help deal with the cold and biting winds of winter.

People on the sidewalk voiced their thanks, while dodging rain drops, for the effort undertaken by the local teens to show a little bit of the reason for the season.

Shelter director Jasper Newborn smiled as he accepted the box and took the donations inside.

“What it does is help us service the people we serve better. It just helps us do a better job for the folks that come in,” Newborn said. “Many of the items we need, if we had to purchase, the cost would be tremendous. By young people like Chris, and other organizations, deciding to do something for the homeless, it assists us in our objective of providing shelter and produce some atmosphere for them.”

It would be easy for a high school freshman to look around at the crime in his community and keep a low profile until he can graduate and get out.

But that’s not Suggs’ way. This was the second year Suggs has led the Hats for the Homeless campaign.

When he made the effort last year it was supposed to be a one-time deal.

“A couple of weeks ago, I read about the homeless shelter having problems,” Suggs said.

The shelter has lost a third of its budget for the coming year, due to a loss of funding from the U.S. Post Office.

“I decided to start (Hats for the Homeless) back, with it being cold and winter coming,” Suggs said.

He need only look to the reaction to last year’s collection for inspiration.

“Bins were overflowing,” he said. “It made me feel warm on the inside. I’m starting to think this will be an annual thing.”

Suggs’ dad, Rico Suggs, couldn’t be prouder of his son

“For as young as he is, for him to take this on, it shows he has a good heart,” Rico Suggs said.

The Suggs are a family that gives back, through their church and other groups, but to see his son go the extra mile is heartwarming. Chris Suggs founded Kinston Teens, a group taking on community projects in the wake of heightened violence in the area.

“It’s a blessing that someone so young wants to give back,” Rico Suggs said.

Kinston Teens plans to meet twice over the Christmas break to discuss projects, Chris Suggs said.

He downplays his community efforts.

“It’s easier to sit back and hope it won’t be me,” he said, when it comes to being a victim of violence in the area. “When there’s a possibility it could be me, it makes me want to do something.”