Not many teens would be moved to develop a large service project after watching a video about a moment in history, but a group of teen girls did just that. They collected hundreds of coats they donated to homeless shelters after watching a video of Heber J. Grant.
Heber J. Grant was born in 1856. His father died when he was a baby and he was raised by his widowed mother. He experienced great poverty throughout his childhood as his mother worked late into the night earning a small living as a seamstress. He would later, as the Mormon prophet, develop the modern Mormon welfare program that has provided for the essential needs of many people since the 1930s.
There was no real money for luxuries in Heber’s childhood home. His coat was thin and worn and he was often very cold. He longed for a coat for his birthday, but didn’t dare ask for one, knowing there would be no money for it and not wanting to hurt his mother by making her aware of his discomfort.
He was surprised when his mother presented him with a beautiful and very warm red coat on his birthday. She had worked even longer hours than usual to sew it for him. He thanked her and rushed outside to play, eager to experience the warmth of his new coat.
A few weeks later, he was running an errand in his new coat when he saw a small boy huddled near a grate, wearing only a sweater and trying desperately to keep warm. Heber J. Grant knew just how cold the child was and recognized that the child must be very poor. He promptly took off his coat and presented it to the child as a gift. He went home and put his old coat back on. When his mother saw him wearing it she asked where his new coat was. He confessed that he had given it away to a poor child who was very cold and needed it more than he did.
His mother asked him if he couldn’t have given the child his old coat instead. Then she looked into his tear-filled eyes and said, “Of course, you couldn’t,” and hugged him, proud of his sacrifice.
Laraine Moon of Bountiful, Utah saw a children’s video about this incident. The story touched her and she vowed to find ways to help others in the same unselfish way Heber J. Grant did. Soon after, she was asked to be in charge of an annual camp for teenage girls. During the kickoff planning meeting with the teens who would plan and run the camp under her direction, she showed the video. The girls were also moved by his unselfishness and chose to develop a coat project as their camp service. They publicized the event and then went door to door collecting used coats. One of their collection days was very cold and rainy, reminding them of the need for the coats.
In the end, they were able to collect hundreds of coats, which they delivered to homeless shelters for distribution to those who would otherwise spend the hard Utah winters cold.
Watch the video of the project:
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.