BROCKTON — As a crowd of customers glance over in the westside Walmart, and the sounds of electronic beeping from the cash register can be heard, their eyes are locked on 200 coats ready for purchase.
Max Moukit, 23, and Jason Jenkins, 22, spent a recent Friday afternoon purchasing $2,000 worth of coats for the homeless in Brockton.
Spread The Warmth Brockton is an initiative started by Moukit and Jenkins to give back this winter due to the devastating effects of COVID-19 on the homeless population in Brockton. They partnered with the Brockton YMCA and Father Bill’s and Mainspring on the project.
The pair was inspired to help their community by the crippling poverty they witnessed throughout Brockton growing up. Currently, 14.8% of Brockton residents are living in poverty, well above the Massachusetts rate overall of 9.4%, according to the United States Census.
“Due to the unfortunate circumstances of the pandemic Jason and I wanted to give back since so many people are out of jobs and probably can’t afford hats and coats,” Moukit said.
“It breaks my heart to drive through the city and witness people living under a bridge, sleeping in the cold and struggling to keep warm. It truly hurts seeing people walking shivering in a snowstorm.”
Jenkins understands firsthand the value of receiving help because he grew up less fortunate but had hard-working parents who tried their best to give him a better life.
“I was always raised to appreciate what I had. I remember every year getting a coat from my church and being appreciative. I also knew it would put less stress on my parents because then they wouldn’t have to go out and buy me one with everything they had going on,” Jenkins said.
“Now today I am thankful to be in a position to be the giver and help other families because I know what it is like.”
“Not to mention the pandemic going on, the need for winter gear is at an all-time high. I’m just blessed that Max and I were able to put this together and help the families that need it.”
According to Father Bill’s and MainSpring homeless shelter, since the shelter partnered up with Brockton Neighborhood Health Center and started testing in March, 23% of their guests have tested positive for COVID-19.
“In order to protect our shelter guests, our staff, and the community at-large, we are providing emergency shelter at multiple sites to allow for social distancing,” said John Yazwinski, President & CEO of Father Bill’s & MainSpring.
“In Brockton, we are operating 75 beds at MainSpring House and 67 beds at our satellite shelter at the Rodeway Inn. In addition, we have rented out 5 rooms at another hotel in Brockton to make sure we have extra capacity this winter.”
Father Bill’s & MainSpring is the leading provider for services that help prevent and end homelessness in Massachusetts. The agency has helped more than 7,000 people every year through its many programs, including 500 permanent supportive housing units, emergency shelter, homelessness prevention and diversion, and employment opportunities according to Catie Reilly, chief development officer of Father Bill’s & Mainspring.
“As we prepare for the most challenging winter in our agency’s history, these generous donations will help bring comfort and warmth to our neighbors experiencing homelessness. We are grateful for people like Maxwell stepping up and making a difference during this crisis,” Reilly said.
The holidays can be difficult for families due to the pandemic, but the Old Colony YMCA works hard to support people through troubled times, by collecting essential items all year round to help anyone in need, said Michael Ricci, vice president of communications for the Old Colony YMCA.
“We’re always humbled by the support of our community, especially around the holidays. When people donate coats and run drives to collect essential items,” Ricci said.
“It means we can reallocate resources to better support kids and families. It also means that people really believe in our mission and cause, and we’re always appreciative of that.”
Spread The Warmth Brockton was able to donate more than 350 new and used coats to the YMCA and Father Bills & Mainspring homeless shelter.
Moukit and Jenkins created a colorful flier and used social media as their means of communication to get the word out. They said they received overwhelming support from Brockton High alumni with their generous donations.
“We’re extremely grateful to Max for putting this together and for showing such extraordinary compassion for his community. People like Max create positive change and truly inspire others to follow his spirit of giving,” Ricci said.
Staff writer Alisha Saint-Ciel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.