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Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think. --Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

A 14-yr-old's Clothing Closet for All

--by Josie R., syndicated from tonic.com, Nov 25, 2011

We've already had you nominate an everyday hero and vote on our favorite nominees. Today it's time to crown Tonic's first-ever Hero of the Month. Without further ado, March's hero is ... Katelyn Eystad, a 14-year-old in Pitman, NJ, whose kindness far exceeds her years. In 2009, Katelyn founded the Angels of God Clothing Closet to provide clothing, diapers, deodorant and more to people in need in her community. Already she has served 1,500 families. As the admirer who nominated her explains, "What a blessing this child has been to many. Katelyn is always volunteering and giving back to others." We loved hearing her story and we love that the nomination came from her very proud mom, Elissa!

Here's how it works: The clothing closet is in a small storefront. Three days a week, clients can come for shopping sprees by appointment. They shop as usual, they just don't have to pay anything. Some of them leave grinning, and some of them leave crying in gratitude. To spread the word, Katelyn and her mom went around town and talked to churches and schools. Now they get referrals from domestic violence shelters and homeless shelters. "It got so big, so fast," Elissa explains. Volunteers also stream in, especially young people and Girl and Boy Scout troops, because they know a kid started it.

Katelyn says she couldn't do it without the support of her mom and her sisters, ages 9 and 18. Her younger sister has put herself in charge of making sure all the donated toys still work.Katelyn, an extremely articulate 8th grader, says her inspiration came from being in a single parent family and experiencing a devastating house fire a few years ago. "Me and my family have been in need before ourselves," she says. "The people who are coming in, I know how they feel and I can relate to them."

Tonic will award Katelyn $250 to further her inspiring work. It might go to utilities, or maybe to one of the emergency cases that come up, like a client with cancer or the recent birth of triplets. It might help the Angels of God's Easter basket drive (they hope to fill and distribute about 400 this year). Or maybe the the school supplies and backpack drive this summer. Maybe even the Christmas toy drive. Rest assured, it will go a long way in helping local families. Katelyn isn't slowing down, and she's embracing her place as a role model, even for people who are much, much older. She's even got some advice for people thinking about doing good: "Anything's possible. I started this when I was 12 years old. I guess it's just have your priorities straight." 

Photos courtesy of Angels of God.  

 This post is reprinted here with permission from Tonic.


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