College student leaves coats on poles for needy

Posted at 9:01 AM, Dec 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-06 11:01:07-05

A college student from Maine is warming the hearts of people in her hometown, both literally and figuratively, by purchasing winter coats from Goodwill Industries and leaving them outside for the city’s homeless.

Gabriella Kaper, a 20-year-old Portland native, includes a note with each coat that reads, “I am not lost. Please take me if you need me.”

She also purposely tapes the coats to light poles instead of leaving them on the ground or on benches. 

“I put them on light posts so they’re higher up so people can see them and they’re up as a display to catch people’s attention,” Kaper told ABC News.

Kaper went to her local Goodwill Monday and took advantage of the store’s $1 sale, walking away with five coats. She distributed the coats around downtown Portland and when she returned the next day, she says all the coats were gone.

Kaper shared her idea for helping the city’s homeless population on social media, and says she is pleased with the response.

“I have been getting emails and text messages saying that people have been putting up more coats and hats and mittens,” Kaper said. “I definitely started something and I’m really happy about that.”

The city of Portland, which is already experiencing below freezing temperatures, has approximately 200 people in the city’s homeless shelter on an average night, according to a city official.

“We were thrilled to learn of this effort by this individual as we think it exemplifies the spirit of Portlanders and carries on a tradition of good will activities in our community,” Portland city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin told ABC News. “Last year we had someone who hung mittens on the two trees out front of City Hall and placed a note that they were for anyone who was cold and needed them.”

Kaper says she plans to keep distributing coats through the winter season.

“I plan to go back every Monday for as long as it’s cold out,” she said. “If I help someone, then I feel like I accomplished something.”