A Tuttle Elementary School student collected more than 4,000 clothing items in three weeks to benefit underprivileged children in Haiti.
Samuel Owensby, 9, discovered impoverished children in the earthquake-ravaged country needed clothes, and he wasn't content until he came up with a plan to make a difference.
"I just really wanted to help out," Samuel said.
It all started when Addison Hodge, a coordinator for a Haiti service project, spoke several weeks ago at First Presbyterian Church in Newton about his group's service efforts. Amy Owensby, Samuel's mother, heard Hodge's presentation, and shared the information with Samuel.
"He immediately wanted to know more," Owensby said. "He said, 'I think I want to help, but I don't know how.'"
Hodge told the story of students from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte's Model UN group, which visited Haiti in July.
The students worked and played among 90 children in the Good Samaritan Orphanage during their stay, and Hodge shared that information with members of First Presbyterian Church.
Hodge's presentation, however, wasn't the first time Samuel heard about Haiti.
Samuel also learned about the earthquake in Haiti during school, and he was moved my the chilling images of children his age without clothes.
"I couldn't let them go without clothes," Samuel said. "I just thought, 'How am I going to do this?'"
Samuel didn't hesitate in his desire to help Haitian children, and he started a clothing drive at Tuttle Elementary School. After five days, Samuel collected more than 300 clothing items, including shirts, shorts and pants.
Samuel requested a donation from Carolina Containers, which sent containers to help store the clothing. He also received help from Community House Middle School in Charlotte.
"The community support has been great," Owensby said. "The Tuttle Elementary staff, they made (the clothing drive) a success locally."
Samuel's goal was to collect at least 900 clothing items to allow each of the orphanage's 90 children to have 10 items of clothing. Samuel exceeded that goal, and he kept on going.
"We didn't turn anything away," Owensby said, adding that even clothing for cold weather will be used in Haiti's warm temperature by cutting away the sleeves or pant legs.
After collecting items for 11 days, Samuel had 2,000 articles of clothing. Now starting its fourth week, the clothing drive has about 4,400 items.
"It makes me feel good to know that I'm going to help the kids," Samuel said.
UNC-Charlotte's Model UN group will come to the Owensby house in December, where the clothing is stored, to collect the donations.
Samuel stored the clothes in plastic bags, which are in a pile that is taller than Samuel.
Owensby said she couldn't be more proud of her son for taking initiative to make a difference in his community and beyond.
"You always hope to instill values in their children to let them know that there are other things going on in the world," Owensby said. "I think the lesson hopefully will extend beyond and into the future."