BILLINGS – A family from Billings is hoping their message of kindness and generosity will catch up with others through something called the Warm Up Project.
Their mission was especially helpful for those less fortunate just a couple of weeks ago, when Billings saw eight straight days of subzero temperatures.
And even as temperatures are set to warm this week, we as Montanans always know the weather can turn.
“We’d give the shirts off our backs,” said Brittany Raines.
Raines founded the Warm Up Project with her husband, to take in winter hats and scarves and redistribute them indirectly to those who need them most.
The cold weather gear is equipment with tags that let the finder know it's theirs to keep and use to stay warm.
The Raines grew up in Montana and now with their six children, travel mostly due to Brittany’s husband being in the military.
“We lived mostly in cold areas and so we started in Alaska actually,” she said. “We started hanging scarves and hats, mostly because we just noticed there was a large population living on the streets and we wanted a simple way to give back.”
And it caught on with other military families and others joining in on the cause.
“People move from these cold areas down to the south and then they don't need their hats and gloves anymore,” she said. “And so, they donate them and then we turn around and wash them and we just hand write the tags ourselves and go hang them up.”
Now living in Missouri, Raines says the family just recently launched a Facebook initiative to grow the Warm Up Project and get others to pay it forward.
“You know, we never see who picks them up and we just have to have a lot of faith that they're being used and the right people or that need them or picking them up,” she said.
The Rainses were recognized as the AUSA volunteer family of the year.
Raines says the idea has grown to much more than just helping those less fortunate. The hats and scarves are for anyone who needs them.
“So, it's not for a targeted audience anymore. It's more about just making a difference in someone's day. It's just as easy for me to walk out of my house, and maybe have underestimated how cold it was going to be.”
So, when the world seems harsh and cold, the Raines family reminds us that it's often the generosity of others, that keeps us warm, in more ways than one.
“We never know what kind of day somebody is having,” she said.
Raines says they're looking for helpers they’re calling “change agents” to help spread the message and warm clothing around the country.
You can visit the Warm Up Project Facebook page to learn how to get involved.