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Spreading the Warmth: A cold weather crusade to help those in need

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Two weeks ago, as she was enjoy a warm bath at home, Jennifer Massey Hopper realized just how blessed she was to be surrounded by warm and comfort with a roof over her head.

It was cold and rainy outside and she knew there were other Rome residents who don’t have a place to go when the temperatures drop.

So she gathered coats and scarves she had at home and drove around Rome, leaving them at places she knew homeless people frequent, hoping that they would take the items they needed most.

“Then I started asking clients,” Jennifer said, referring to clients at Dermaculture of Rome where she works. “People started bringing me donations of coats and scarves.”

She also began getting other items such as tarps and Tupperware.

“A lot of people know to donate warm clothes but they might not think about the fact that homeless people need to stay dry and keep their belongings dry when it’s so rainy outside,” Jennifer said. “So the tarps and the Tupperware really help them.”

The giving and helping nature runs in Jennifer’s blood, she says. She has always grown up with stories of her grandfather, the late Joe Adams, a former Rome sheriff. She always heard stories of his kindness and generosity, sometimes taking the linens and blankets off the beds in his own home to give to others. So by helping other people in the community, she feels a connection to him as well.

Each day Jennifer gets donations and loads up her car. She takes her daughter, Madi, and sometimes her friends, and drives around Rome leaving items at locations she knows are frequented by homeless people.

“If you’re from Rome you sort of know the places where homeless people hang out or pass through a lot,” she said. “The other day my daughter and I were out and saw a homeless man. We offered him a blanket and a raincoat and gloves and he was so grateful to get them. I like the kids seeing that. I like the kids helping. It really shows them how good they have it and reminds them that there are people out there for whom the smallest things are very big blessings.”

Jennifer used social media to urge friends and acquaintances to do the same thing. But although she meant for them to take their own donations around town, they’ve just been bringing them to her.

“I don’t really mind,” she said. “I meant for people to go out and do it because it’s very rewarding but I don’t mind doing the delivering. I’ll keep doing it as long as it’s cold out. And when it starts getting hot, then maybe we’ll be leaving out different items. As long as we have things to give, we’ll keep doing it.”

Jennifer is simply trying to make this winter will be a little more bearable for those needy Rome residents who can’t afford to buy coats and scarves of their own. She hopes other community members will be inspired to do good for others as well.

“It’s the simple acts of kindness we do that can impact people the most,” she said. “We’ve lost that. It feels like we stopped caring about each other. But I can see it coming back.”