At a time when most kids her age are busy penning letters to Santa, 10-year-old River Jensen is writing love notes to the homeless.
"Without this they’re just gonna feel lonely and sad," she said.
It all started one day when River and her mom Anna were helping the homeless at their local Salvation Army. River couldn't help but notice how bad some of them smelled.
"Mom said they don’t have shampoos and soaps,” River said. “I asked how come we can’t do anything about it, and so here we are collecting soaps, shampoos and body wash."
River has been collecting donations of hygiene items, socks, gloves, and hats since August. She has amassed hundreds of items that she and her family will bag into individual survival kits and distribute to the homeless on Christmas Eve.
To River it’s about much more than making somebody smell better. It’s about making a small difference in how the homeless feel about themselves.
"They’ll just feel appreciated," she said. "That somebody cares."
River and her mom had no idea how generous the people of their community could be until they asked one woman outside a Walmart for a donation during a recent sock drive.
"She said she was sorry she couldn't help because she was homeless herself," said Anna. "Twenty minutes later the lady comes out and hands me two dollars and tells me at least she has a tent to sleep in. There are other people who don’t. It blew me away. That is what this is all about."
That is why River makes the extra effort to hand-write notes of encouragement that she puts in each bag of supplies.
They read, "You are still loved. Don’t lose hope," and, "not even the sun shines brighter than you."
They’re messages of love and hope from a little girl who is so full of both that she can’t help but share it all with others.