NEWARK – The trees on the southwestern corner of the Licking County Courthouse Square might look a little bit different for the next few days.
The ones on Railroad Street in Newark’s south end might look a little strange as well.
Hats, scarves, socks and gloves are hanging from the branches and wrapped around the trunks — free to anyone who could use a little warmth.
Members of YES Club and the South Newark Civic Association spent Friday afternoon hanging the items in the trees as part of a service project they decided to call #NewarkLove.
“It’s really cold out, and a lot of people haven’t got gloves and stuff,” Newark High School sophomore Atlanta Thomas said. “I want these to go to people who really need them.”
A program of Mental Health America, YES Club is designed to help middle and high school students give back to their community through service.
As program director of YES, Amanda Vozzella is always looking for new projects for the students. Several weeks ago, she saw pictures on Facebook of a similar project that was done in another city
“I thought, ‘Why not do this in Newark?’ ” she said. “It’s so simple but so meaningful.”
As vice president of the South Newark Civic Association, she decided to get that organization involved. After getting permission from the city of Newark, she started reaching out on social media to promote #NewarkLove and asked residents to donate scarves, hats and gloves to the project.
YES director Vee Hottle said she was amazed by how quickly the word spread online.
“It went from one Facebook page to 10 to 50,” Hottle said. “It’s just really grown. It’s very awesome that so many people came together.”
Residents and local businesses donated more than 300 items to the project, filling four large containers. YES Club members pinned the items together and attached tags with inspirational messages to each one.
Some of the tags were written by people who donated items. Other messages were written by the YES Club students, including “YES Clubhouse loves you” and “You are amazing and beautiful.”
The items will be hanging in the trees until Feb. 17, but Vozzella said her hope is they will all be taken by people who need them.
“It’s one of those things that feels good, knowing you’ve done something for other people,” she said.
The YES Club students worked hard to spread the word about #NewarkLove. They talked to their guidance counselors, church groups and friends at school.
Seventh-grader Nevaeh Heflin made posters to hang up throughout Heritage Middle school about the event.
“The community has done so much for me and has helped me out, so why don’t I give back,” she said.
When YES Club alumna Samantha Lantz heard about the project, she knew she wanted to come back and help out.
“This is a great opportunity, and it instills good values of sharing the love and being there for someone else,” she said.