- Associated Press - Monday, June 4, 2018

PITTSBURGH (AP) - In October, 8-year-old Samantha Kincaid of McCandless and her grandparents, Nita and Jim Kincaid, were Downtown when Samantha heard a homeless man say he hadn’t eaten in two days.

“It broke my heart,” Samantha said.

Her father, Matt Kincaid, said Samantha has always been “drawn” to people she felt were being ignored or forgotten. She told her grandparents they had to help.



The plan started small. For a few months, Samantha and her family gave money to homeless people they saw on the streets of Pittsburgh. They found no shortage of people in need. As of January 2016, there were over 1,100 homeless people in Allegheny County, according to a Point-in-Time (PIT) count conducted by the Allegheny County’s Department of Human Services.

The PIT counts are done annually and record the total number of homeless individuals in the county on one given night. Due to the nature of the count, though, it is possible that the official number of homeless people may be too low.

Many of those counted were in the same position as the man Samantha saw Downtown - unsheltered or in transitional housing, and often without guaranteed food or supplies.

Samantha said she decided to make kits for the homeless, and enlisted her family to help. It started with ten five-gallon buckets.

So far, Mr. Kincaid said they have handed out about 30 buckets to homeless people around the city and have over 60 kits in their garage, organized and ready to distribute.

According to Samantha, each bucket contains a sweatshirt, a knit hat, socks, gloves, hand- and foot-warmers, sunblock, canned foods, water, fruits and basic first-aid and hygiene products.

Mr. Kincaid said that most of the food and personal care items are from Dollar Tree, and the clothing items are purchased in bulk online. After assembling the buckets, the Kincaids hit the streets, driving around looking for homeless people asking for help.

Mr. Kincaid said they typically distribute buckets two or three times a month. He said they frequent areas with large populations of displaced people, like the North Shore and the streets around Heinz Field.

In February, the family set up a GoFundMe to collect donations. The bucket contents remained the same, but now donors who give $20 or more can put their names on a bucket.

Samantha and her father also wrote a letter to Lowe’s asking for donations. Two Lowe’s stores gave dozens of buckets to the cause, which Samantha calls the “bucket brigade.”

Since the Kincaids started the fundraiser, the page has raised over $4,000, which factors out to be a lot of buckets - more than 400 of them. According to Mr. Kincaid, they spend around $100 at a time to buy supplies, which is enough to fill about 10 buckets.

Last week, Samantha’s third-grade class at McKnight Elementary School helped her assemble several dozen buckets. The students brought in donations from home and worked as a class to fill each bucket.

“We have enough supplies and buckets to put together 78,” Samantha wrote on GoFundMe, alongside a photo of a classroom full of blue Lowe’s buckets.

Mr. Kincaid said the kids brought so many donations that he ended up taking cases of water and food home to save for future buckets. Samantha was impressed by how enthusiastic her classmates were to help her, and she is envisioning a big future for her initiative.

“I really hope the whole world gets involved,” Samantha said.

Mr. Kincaid said the credit for the success rests solely on his daughter.

“I’m just the conduit,” he said, adding that the St. Vincent de Paul Society, a religious non-profit dedicated to helping the poor, has offered to help with distribution.

Mr. Kincaid said Samantha devotes between three and six hours to the bucket brigade every week, not including the time it takes to hand the supplies out.

“It’s worth it to see people smiling,” Samantha said.

The family will be spending even more time on the project once the school year ends.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2J2f9wa

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Information from: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, http://www.post-gazette.com

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