Teenagers with warm hearts run charity clothing exchange

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OLATHE, Kan. -- This weekend, an Olathe church will be packed with a lot more people than usual. They'll be stopping in for a clothing exchange that helps people who are struggling financially. A handful of teenage friends created and run this remarkable charity project. And they are our Fox 4 Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achievers of the Week.

The activity rooms of Prince of Peace Catholic Church always seem to be very busy places, especially in the days leading up to Give N' Get. Bags of donations have already come in so there are coats and shoes to sort and stack. Gloves and hats and blankets and purses, too.

"To help warm the community for all those who need it and who are struggling in our community," said Fox 4 Young Achiever Jackson McElroy, a high school senior who helped start the Give N' Get Exchange and continues to help run it.

A lot more will come in before this Sunday when hundreds of people will stop in to look through the items and take home what they need for themselves and their families -- free of charge.

"It always gives me chills," said Jackson. "It's amazing how an event like this can bring people together, whether you're giving something or whether you're getting something."

With guidance and encouragement from their parents, Jackson and friends Bailey Ingolia, Brianna Woicke, Jordan Eberhardy, Jake Konnesky and Josh Lewis launched Give N' Get back in 2011 when they were all just 8th graders.

"We realize this is bigger than just ourselves," said Fox 4 Young Achiever Brianna Woicke. "There's so many people out there that are not fortunate enough to have what we have."

It was mostly just the church family that got behind Give N' Get with donations at first. Now people from their schools and a lot of other places are contributing, too.

"It's grown quite a bit," said Fox 4 Young Achiever Jordan Eberhardy. "It's kind of cool to see how people can both volunteer and make donations and also benefit from them."

And it's not just members of the church family who are benefitting anymore.

"I really didn't start to see the impact until about the second or third year," said Fox 4 Young Achiever Bailey Ingolia, "because now we have people come not only from Prince of Peace but from all over the area. We've had people come from downtown Kansas City. And we even donate now to charities after it's been picked over."

This will be the fifth annual Give N' Get Exchange and the young founders are still with it -- still getting people to donate, still helping to organize and run things and still helping a whole lot of people who are struggling to make ends meet. They'll all go away to college in the fall and hand over their project to younger siblings and friends to run. But the founders say they'll still help out -- proud of their work and it's impact.

"It's going to be cool when we do get to come back and see that it's still running and everything," said Fox 4 Young Achiever Jake Konnesky. "And it's something we started together and that we can make a difference."

One of the founders, Josh Lewis, had a school conflict on the day we shot the story on Give N' Get and wasn't able to join us but our recognition goes out to him, as well. The Give N' Get Exchange is this Sunday, January 18 from 7:00 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. at Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Olathe. And if you have some gently used coats, shoes, hats, gloves, blankets or purses that are stylish and in good condition, the founders still welcome your donations.

Fox 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on Fox 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on Fox 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.