Local Brother and Sister Start Huck Helps Project to Help Others
Photography Provided by Amanda Trebley Photography
Several years ago, Trisha Johnson was working with area families to put on a free Thanksgiving dinner at their church. As her daughter Colbie, a kindergartener at the time, watched Trisha do something nice for others, she was compelled to create a philanthropic project of her own. Since her birthday is in early December, she asked her friends to bring toys to her birthday party, which she then donated to Toys for Tots. Thus a tradition began, as she has collected donations each year and dropped them off at the Plainfield Police Department (PPD).
“I like knowing that I’m making a kid’s Christmas good, and I like helping the community,” Colbie says.
This year Colbie’s little brother Huck decided he wanted get in on the altruistic action.
“This summer just before his fifth birthday, he told me that he wanted to do his own project,” Trisha says.
The family brainstormed and came up with the idea of putting together blessing bags for the homeless.
Trisha’s friend from high school, Josh Jellison, is a school resource officer in Plainfield. She reached out to him and asked if the police department would be interested in distributing these blessing bags around town. Jellison asked Deputy Chief Joe Aldridge, who green lit the idea.
“He said that officers come into contact every day with people who need these sorts of things, so he would love to have a stack of blessing bags to put in the back of their patrol cars,” Trisha says.
Huck, who named his project Huck Helps, includes a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, soap, snacks, water and hand sanitizer in the bags. Huck says helping others makes him feel good.
“I put together the bags with love,” Huck says.
His mom concurs.
“This little dude is going to become an engineer one day,” Trisha says. “He’s so organized, and he loves making sure each bag is assembled correctly.”
Though their original goal was to assemble 25 bags, once Trisha put the word out on social media requesting donations, it was shared with the Town of Plainfield Chatter Facebook page and donations came pouring in.
“The public was so giving,” says Trisha, who created an Amazon Wish List with items they needed. “We had Amazon boxes on our porch like crazy.”
People shipped items from all over. One woman from northern Indiana sent money for Huck to spend on the things he needed for his bags, and included an extra $20 for his birthday. People who donate include kind messages, thanking him for what he’s doing and wishing him luck. As a result of so much support, Huck was able to assemble and drop off 100 blessing bags to the PPD in July.
Aldridge thanked Huck and asked him to keep the project going, as the homeless are in need year round.
“Our patrol officers keep several of these in their vehicles to hand out to the needy community as needed,” Aldridge says. “Sometimes it’s just something simple like toiletries that we can provide the public that make a huge difference.”
Later this year, a new government-funded housing project will open in Plainfield, and the PPD will donate laundry baskets for each unit, filled with hangers and detergent. They would also like to include blessing bags with each basket. Currently Huck and his cadre of helpers are working on the next round of bags.
“People can’t believe a 5-year-old is heading this up,” Trisha says.
Trisha, however, is not surprised.
“To say that I’m proud of my children is an understatement,” Trisha says. “They have such a desire to love others. They realize how blessed they are so they want to make sure others are taken care of.”
Looking after others is the way Trisha was raised by her parents, Steve and Marsha. The family used to always donate to the Angel Tree at Christmas time, a program that provides gifts to children who have a mom or dad in prison.
“When we were shopping, my mom would tell me that this little girl needs underwear, and I was like, ‘But that’s not a toy. That’s just something that’s in your drawer,’” Trisha says. “Once you realize that not everybody is as blessed as you and that not everyone has what you have, giving really comes easy.”
When Trisha was growing up and she and her mom would run across a homeless person on the street, Trisha witnessed empathy in her mom’s reaction.
“My mom always hurt for them, especially if they had dogs,” Trisha says. “We would go to a fast-food restaurant and get a sandwich for the person, and a sandwich for the dog. My parents’ giving nature floated down to me.”
Now, when Trisha and Colbie are out and they see someone who looks dirty or disheveled, Colbie will ask her mom if they can help the individual. The answer is always yes. That’s what Huck Helps is all about.
“I would never say no to someone who is down on their luck,” says Trisha, who regularly encourages her kids to make somebody smile. “When you’re 5 years old, you do that by telling a joke or giving a hug. For Colbie, she realizes she can make someone smile by throwing out their trash at lunch, or offering to sharpen someone’s pencil – just simple stuff brings smiles.”
That’s because it’s often the simple things that yield the greatest blessings.
“Huck and his family are such an inspiration to all of us,” Aldridge says. “In a world where we see a lot of negativity, we also see great people with big hearts doing wonderful things.”
If you would like to make a donation to Huck Helps, visit amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/3JXFG2BRIUVO5?ref_=wl_share.