9-year-old boy collects coats help those in need in his New Jersey town

By Sophie Lewis

/ CBS News

9-year-old boy donates coats to community

In the midst of the polar vortex, a 9-year-old from New Jersey is doing his part to make sure his community stays warm. With the help of his family, Sandro Cunningham started Sandro's Coat Rack — and he's been collecting and donating coats for the last two years.

Cunningham collects used coats through his Facebook page and drop-boxes at his school and a local dance center. He then sets up and stocks his coat rack, which he built with his father, Edward. They used to keep the coat rack outside of the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, but it's now located across from the Trenton Police Station where Edward is an officer. Anyone walking by the rack can take or leave coats as they need.

Sandro Cunningham with his free coat rack. Edward Cunningham

Two years ago, then-7-year-old Sandro was inspired to start Sandro's Coat Rack while watching a local news broadcast on donating to homeless people with his mom, Lisa. He immediately wanted to do something to help his own community, and his parents helped him get started.

"This is his thing and we're just along for the ride," Edward Cunningham told CBS News. "We're just trying to guide him in the right direction."

He estimates they have collected close to 1,000 coats so far. Whenever the rack is running low, they drive around the community to collect more. "He just wants to keep people warm," the proud dad said. "He's just an outgoing kid who wants to help."

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Sandro and Crescenzo also donate personal hygiene kits. Edward Cunningham

Sandro's donations don't stop when winter does. In the warmer months, Sandro and his brother, Crescenzo, create care packages with personal hygiene items. "We didn't realize how much joy this small deed would bring us. We are extremely proud of him," Lisa Cunningham told NJ.com.

First published on January 31, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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