- Associated Press - Friday, January 1, 2016

EATON RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - Morgan Scarbro’s Facebook page isn’t filled with the kind of social media chatter you’d expect from a 12-year-old.

Instead her page, titled “Morgan’s Hugs,” is filled with photos of the outgoing, blond-haired girl stepping out into the community and helping others, according to the Lansing State Journal ( https://on.lsj.com/1MGLgKW ).

There are pictures of her giving a small refrigerator to an elderly woman who was without housing and living in a hotel room, of Morgan holding a gift bag full of clothes for a needy classmate and standing next to a trunk filled with toys for local children.

At the top of the page is a photo of Mother Teresa, and this quote from the storied Catholic nun who Pope Francis last month approved for sainthood. “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”

It sums up Morgan’s goals perfectly.

The Eaton Rapids Middle School student devotes five or six hours a week to volunteer work, with local hospitals, the homeless and countless nonprofits.

She’s been giving back on her own since age 5 and has no plans to stop.

Morgan gives a simple explanation for her efforts.

“I don’t like to see people going without,” she said.

Helping them makes her feels good. It’s also put the reality of hardship in perspective.

“It’s taught me that it’s super easy to get thrown out of your house and be on the street,” Morgan said.

But her efforts had a simple beginning.

Morgan’s mother Deb Scarbro has volunteered with local causes for years.

Giving back is important, Deb said, and she’s always wanted her four children to know the value of volunteerism. When Morgan was in kindergarten Deb started making her a part of the volunteer efforts.

“I’ve been doing it her whole life,” Deb said. “I think everybody should give back. I think kids need to learn that.”

Morgan started taking on projects by herself. She’s been actively involved in pageant competitions for several years and began challenging fellow contestants to support local causes and raise donations for people in need.

Over the years Morgan has led or promoted efforts to collect canned goods for food pantries and community dinners, hygiene and personal care items for women’s shelters and homeless outreach efforts.

She’s collected coats and other items for students and attended homeless “street walks” with Lansing’s Homeless Angels, handing out food and other items to people she meets.

Kathy Schultz has been a teacher at Lansing’s Reo Elementary School for 18 years. She can attest to Morgan’s efforts, which filled a closet in Schultz’s special education classroom with non-perishable food, hygiene items, school supplies, hats, coats and mittens.

“This is all on her own,” Schultz said, adding that she knows the Scarbro family and simply mentioned “in passing” that some students in her building didn’t have a warm coat for the winter.

Morgan responded, delivering 12 new coats to her classroom.

“She said to me, ‘Cathy, this is for all the years I haven’t had to go without a coat,’” Schultz said. “And any time she can rally young people, she does. It’s heartwarming.”

She’s since brought in countless other donations that are stored in Schultz’s classroom and doled out to students throughout the building when a need is identified.

“It makes me feel great,” Morgan said, of giving. “They always thank me and tell me they appreciate it.”

It was a family friend who first suggested that the family document Morgan’s efforts.

“She said, ‘You need to get her a Facebook page so people can see what she’s doing,’” Deb said.

They established “Morgan’s Hugs” on Facebook two years ago. A few hundred people follow the page and Deb posts new photos chronicling Morgan’s efforts regularly.

Just this week Morgan and Deb visited Sparrow Hospital to donate toys. She’ll donate to Potter Park Zoo in the coming months, too.

“Goodwill is alive and well all year with this girl,” Schultz said. “I think it’s not only unique but it says a lot about her character.”

For her part, Morgan doesn’t mind the time commitment. Someday she hopes to become a veterinarian but can’t envision a time when she won’t also want to volunteer.

She hopes more young people will join her.

“We could get more things done,” Morgan said.

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Information from: Lansing State Journal, https://www.lansingstatejournal.com

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