When former Class of 1990 Palmyra High School graduate Dominick Camillo was living in Seattle, he was unable to return home for the holidays. While brainstorming what he should do instead, he decided to spend time with people also on their own for the holidays – the homeless.
Camillo hit the streets of Seattle with some cash, a sandwich and warm socks and distributed them to the less fortunate. When friends of his back on the east coast heard what he was doing, they also wanted to help. They started sending him money to finance his efforts, and when Camillo moved back to the area and settled in Philadelphia five years ago, Kindness Kits were created.
“Palmyra, Riverton and Cinnaminson is such a tight-knit, small community and the residents really enjoy coming together to do something to help those in need,” said Kindness Kits organizer and Palmyra resident Jacqui Nece. “As volunteers, we realize that everyone deserves to be thought of during the holidays, and coming together to create Kindness Kits helps those less fortunate know that people do care about them.”
When Camillo returned to the east coast, he was presented with an opportunity to turn his holiday distribution to the homeless into something bigger. With the help of his friends, what started out as a pair of socks, a sandwich, a bottle of water and some miscellaneous toiletries in a plastic bag has grown into something much more.
The Kindness Kits now are backpacks filled with new items which include a sweatshirt, a pair of sweatpants, socks, gloves, winter hat, a tarp, hand warmers, a blanket and a first aid kit. According to Nece, if the organization receives enough donations, they also try to include travel size hand sanitizer, travel size wipes, lip balm and ponchos. There are also specific Kindness Kits supplying women with feminine hygiene products.
“Kindess Kits are the tangible items that we can provide to each person in need,” said Nece. “However, the real reward for us as volunteers is the connections that we experience with the individuals when handing out the bags, getting to hear their story and to see how genuinely appreciative they are of the Kindness Kits mission.”
According to Nece, Kindness Kits would not be the success it is today without the help and donations from people in the community. This year, the organization’s goals is to make 100 kits to distribute for the holidays.
For those looking to contribute, there are several ways people can get involved. Cash donations or donating new supplies for the backpacks are one way residents can help. The list of new items that are accepted and needed for the kits include extra large sweatshirts, hoodies, sweatpants, socks, gloves, winter hats, hand warmers, ponchos, lap-sized blankets, tarps, travel size wipes, travel size hand sanitizer, lip balm and feminine hygiene products.
Kindness Kit volunteers are also collecting gently used sweatshirts and hoodies, coats, sweatpants, gloves and winter hats for the needy to take what is needed the day of distribution. Bags are assembled on one weekend in December and then distributed in Camden the following weekend.
For more information about the organization, residents can go on their Facebook page, Kindness Kits, or contact Camillo at Dominick609@gmail.com or Nece at email@example.com. Cash donations can be sent to either Dommy215 or jacqui-nece on Venmo. Donations can be dropped in bins out front at 415 Horace Ave. in Palmyra and 2206 Hope Lane in Cinnaminson.