One coat at a time

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One coat at a time

Courtney Mithelman, Staff Writer

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For sophomore Harrison Kruses’ confirmation service project four years ago, he decided to do a coat drive for the students living in the Youth Homes of America. Since then, Kruse has continued to collect coats annually, along with collecting donations, and receiving a grant from the Walmart Foundation. This led to him buying duffel bags and toiletries for the students, all of who arrived with their belongings in a simple trash bag.

For junior Sam Huisinga, who lives at one of the Youth Homes, getting a duffel bag was unexpected.

“I was kind of surprised because it’s like, ‘Really? People actually care about us?'” Huisinga said.

Recently, Kruse was awarded the Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy title for his work by the American Fundraising Professionals (AFP) in 2012.

“The AFP is dedicated to further the cause of philanthropy through service to the community, continuing education for its members, and public recognition of an outstanding philanthropist through the annual AFP Philanthropy Luncheon,” Bob MacKenzie, the former Director of Development, said.

MacKenzie saw that Kruse was interested with what happens at the Youth Homes, and after Kruse started volunteering there, MacKenzie nominated him for the award.

“When I first heard about the boys living there, they are all kind of rough, and then I realized, they have been dealt a tough situation in their life,” Kruse said. “They are pretty much the exact same way I am, just a little different. They have had tough situations [in their lives]. I just don’t judge people anymore.”

Kruse wanted to keep helping the boys at the Youth Homes, so he had a few coat drives over the years.

“When I went in to donate [the coats], all of the kids were really happy to be getting a coat for Christmas,” Kruse said.

Wendy Ingham, current Director of Development at the Youth Homes of Mid-America, believes the kids loved what Kruse did for the kids when he dropped off the coats.

“I think that they were overwhelmed. They all wrote thank-you’s to him. Since he is around the same age as they are, and that someone would think about them at Christmas time, I think that means a lot to them,” Ingham said.

Kruse didn’t stop there.

“I came back the next year and said ‘I really liked what I did last year, what can I do to help?’” Kruse said. “I kind of want to keep stepping it up, and getting more grants. I don’t know what I’ll end up doing, but I kind of want to do something bigger as I get support, and more people know about it, and then I can do more things.”

Volunteering means more than just credit to Kruse.

“I think a lot of people do it for the credit, but I think it’s better when you actually think about who you’re helping, and if you find a cause that you can see the difference you’re making. For me, seeing the look on everybody’s faces, when they get even a winter coat for Christmas. When people get that, the satisfaction from that, you don’t need compensation for it,” Kruse said.

Other students can get involved in this charity project. Kruse thinks that students can get involved by donating just about anything that you could find in your house, including coats and gently used furniture.

Harrison Kruse and Clay Guthmiller at the AFP banquet. Kruse was awarded the 2012 Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy title.

Harrison Kruse and Clay Guthmiller at the AFP banquet. Kruse was awarded the 2012 Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy title.

Harrison Kruse donated numerous coats to the Youth Homes of Mid-America. Kruse has collected these coats through four different coat drives.

Harrison Kruse donated numerous coats to the Youth Homes of Mid-America. Kruse has collected these coats through four different coat drives.