“You don’t have to change the world in a day, but you can change somebody’s world in a day.” When I interviewed Warm Winters Co-Founder, Corinne Hindes, this line literally took my breath away. It is everything I believe and I come back to it often. Getting to know Corinne and her journey with her best friend Katrine to found Warm Winters, was one of the greatest things for me personally that came out of writing my book. If you are looking to bust myths like “you’re too young make a difference” or “I’m only one person, I can’t make a dent,” I’m excited to introduce you to my friend Corinne, with this excerpt from my book, Momentus: Small Acts, Big Change.
Corinne Hindes and her best friend, Katrine Kirsebom, are the co-founders of Warm Winters, an organization that collects warm clothes, socks, and personal care products and distributes them to homeless shelters. Corinne and Katrine inspire me because they prove that creating change isn’t always about donating money.
The best friends started Warm Winters when they were 11 years old. One day in 2011, Corinne saw a homeless man on the street near her house. It was a really cold day and he was wearing only jeans and a T-shirt. She wanted to help him. Fast-forward to ski practice. Corinne and Katrine noticed a huge pile of hats, coats, gloves, and scarves in the lost and found. They asked the resort if they could give the clothing to people experiencing homelessness in their community. The resort said yes, and that’s how Warm Winters began.
Today, hundreds of Warm Winters’ youth volunteers collect clothing from 36 ski resorts and have delivered 31,000 items of warm clothing to 33,000 people in need. Talk about a ripple effect and the impact that people can make.
Corinne told me that the biggest obstacle was getting people to believe them.
“We would call and say, ‘Hey, we want to take your lost and found and donate them to the homeless.’ They did not believe us because we were children. We would have to call a resort five times to get them to listen to what we had to say. People don’t believe kids can make a difference, but some of the best ideas come from the youth in our communities. They see the pain of others and immediately think, ‘How can I help?’”
It’s so true. Corinne said everything changed when they received an award from the Jefferson Awards Foundation in recognition of their efforts. The Jefferson Awards pays close attention to youth that are making a difference and helps to amplify their voice and mentor them. Co-founder Sam Beard helped them create an action plan to expand. Having benefited from being mentored themselves, Corinne and Katrine also inspire other youth to join their efforts. She told me a great story about what happened after they gave a presentation at a high school in Indiana. The students reached out to them on social media to tell them about the actions that they were taking on homelessness in their community.
They’d say, ‘I started my own program with my school. I’ve been donating a lot of my stuff.’ It’s amazing to hear these stories because it really is like a water drop effect—you get one ripple, and that’s us, and we are the drop, and suddenly, all these teens are doing their own projects and creating this big ripple in the water full of change.”
When I heard this, I thought, “YES! I AGREE!” Little things DO add up to make a big difference. That’s a model I live by. It’s a huge myth that only big actions make a difference, but obviously, that’s wrong.
One thing I needed to ask Corinne about was the stigma around homelessness and how we can change the way people react to those who are homeless.
“People walk by homeless people in the streets every day and their reaction isn’t, ‘This person needs help. Maybe I can do something.’ Their reaction is usually to grab their child’s hands, their purse, and look away. People need to realize these are people. That homeless man you walk by every Tuesday lost his job. Maybe he lost touch with his family or needs help getting onto his feet.”
For Corinne, helping can mean little things, such as buying a person a sandwich, inviting them to sit down and have a meal with you, talking with them, or simply not looking away.
“All you have to do is look them in the eye and smile. A lot of people think, ‘No, that’s going to encourage them to hurt you.’ And I say, ‘They’re not going to hurt you. They’re people. All they want is for someone to actually see them and recognize their pain.’ Nobody does that. Nobody looks at them. Everyone looks away and acts like they’re not there because they wish they weren’t.”
Everyone deserves to be looked at as a person and someone with humanity. Everybody deserves a second chance because, simply, why not?
Corinne said it’s been amazing to watch their organization grow and see how much they’ve helped people.
“One of the most incredible stories I have is about the first homeless man we saw, Billy. He became a friend of ours. It’s been amazing watching him grow from having nothing. Now he has a job, an apartment, and a car. He even got a dog. He’s grown so much over the years and he’s watched us grow into the young women we are so it’s been pretty amazing.”
Corinne told me that working with her best friend, Katrine, has been incredible.
“We’re passionate about helping others, and we have this bond. I always have someone to turn to. For example, if I have an idea, or I’m struggling, or I’m thinking about giving up, I always have Katrine to turn to and say, ‘Hey, I don’t know what to do.’ We motivate each other. She is my rock and I am hers.”
I know exactly what she means. When I started my blog, no one else was doing that at my school or in my community. When I found WE, I saw there were so many young, passionate people taking action on all different kinds of issues. I got what they were doing and they got me. We supported each other.
Corinne shared some great advice about how to start making change.
“One step a day is all you need to change the world because if you take one step on Monday, and then another on Tuesday, and then another on Wednesday, all of a sudden, you’re all the way over here, and it’s only Friday. Imagine what you can do in an entire year. No action is too small because it all has to do with your end goal, which is creating change and making a difference.”
To learn more about Warm Winters, including opportunities to start a chapter in your community, please visit their website, www.warmwinters.org.