OLATHE, Kan. -- It was a coat and shoe exchange, which started with a handful of eighth graders who needed to earn some community service time. Then Five years later their “Give 'n Get Coat and Shoe Exchange” has touched thousands of lives in the metro.
This year, the kids who started it are seniors, and they're ready to pass it on.
A group of friends at a couple of catholic schools in Johnson County didn't set out to do so much. They just wanted to provide a place where people could come in January and swap coats and shoes. But what they experienced started to change them.
"There is a woman who had two kids and we were helping take two bags out to her car and we found out she was actually living in that car," said one Give ‘n Get founder, Brianna Woicke.
Last year they helped more than 800 people find cold weather gear and clothes. Lisa Neri and her family came, and now this year they were back.
"We look forward to it every year. It’s great for the kids and they get to come shop for themselves. That makes it wonderful," she said.
Every year it gets bigger, maybe because of word of mouth, or perhaps because the kids who started it are getting better at running it.
"They are just as passionate today as they were when they started it," said parent volunteer Laura McElroy.
Now the founders are ready to go to college with an attitude of service that is rare in kids so young.
"It’s made me much more aware of what is out there. no matter how far you look there is going to be struggle in your area so you have to take a responsibility to change that and help those in need," said another founder, Jake Konnesky.
"Instead of the need being indifferent countries its right in our back yard. To fix something you need to start local. It’s nice to see the changes we have made but also cool to see that there is a lot more work to do,” said another founder Josh Lewis.
The seniors are leaving the exchange in good hands. For the past several years they've been training their younger siblings to take over.
The six kids who started the coat exchange were recently honored by FOX 4's Reaching for Excellence Award.