Rochester Hills resident Patrice Sinclair was shocked when she discovered that what so many take for granted – warm coats, scarves, mittens and boots – are indeed luxuries to an alarming number of school age children in the affluent greater Rochester area.
Deeply moved, she decided to take action. In fact, she actually went door to door in her own neighborhood and launched “Warming Heads, Hands and Hearts” last year and was met with an outpouring of generosity.
“No one in Rochester should be cold, period,” says the 22-year Rochester Hills resident, who volunteers her time and financial literacy skills at the Rochester Area Neighborhood House, which serves low income families in the Auburn Hills, Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township communities.
“Suburban poverty is just huge,” shares Sinclair, who says she started the project while participating in a Landmark Worldwide self expression and leadership program.
“You don’t think of areas of Rochester as having poverty,” she admits. “Yet while doing my research, I discovered that there are thousands of students that needed financial assistance. I thought it was a great opportunity to help our area and it just kind of grew.”
While she started on her own block, she ventured out into the community.
“It wasn’t all just my neighbors [who contributed],” she shares. “People would just drop items off on my door step. Then, I put a box at a local smoothie store and people just came out of the woodwork.”
The generosity was overwhelming, states Sinclair.
“I had no idea I would get so many,” she recalls. “I don’t think you really know what the response is going to be, which is why you just have to try it – I would get huge garbage bags full of donations. The very first donation was from a woman who used to live in the area who told someone else about it. I literally don’t even know how much these would've cost brand new. That was really fun.”
Sinclair shares that people by the hundreds donated gently used and new coats, hats, mittens, scarves and boots.
“Some people would go buy stuff on sale and bring it back,” she said. “Other people gave some beautiful coats – leather and fur … almost everything was in perfect condition.”
Then, she walked into one of Rochester’s signature events, The Festival of Trees, and spotted a treasure.
“There was a tree covered in mittens hats, coats – it was perfect, so I bought it and sent it to the Neighborhood House,” she recalls. “The Giving Tree” was lovingly adorned by The Linda Rea Team of Real Estate One, known for their generosity in Rochester, particularly with the less fortunate.
“In all, we brought in 750 pieces in just a couple of months,” she enthuses.
Sinclair, 52, works as a financial advisor. Aside from donating her time and service to others, she works with her church, greeting and ushering ministries with Faith Church.
“I think it’s just something we all need to do,” she said. “There’s so much to do, it always works out … the bible says, ‘to whom much is given much is expected’ …. We need to help other people.”
Photo: Laurie Tennent