PROBLEM: The homeless population in the U.S. continues to hover around 550,000. In the colder months, homelessness is particularly life-threatening.
SOLUTION: Warm Winters.
THE TEEN WHO’S MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Corinne Hindes of Walnut Creek, CA.
In 2011, Corinne Hindes saw a homeless man in her neighborhood dressed in only a t-shirt and jeans, even though it was frigid outside. Corinne had been an avid ski-racer her whole life and she noticed that the Lost and Found at the ski resort where she practiced was always overflowing. So she asked the resort staff if she could use the discarded Lost and Found items for donations. Then she found that homeless man with just a t-shirt and offered him a discarded coat.
Thus, Warm Winters was born.
Warm Winters now partners with 32 ski areas in 12 states. They have 500 teen volunteers and have distributed more than 33,500 items of clothing to 23,000 homeless people. Corinne has been endorsed by the National Ski Areas Association and is training with the Jefferson Awards GlobeChangers Leadership Program. She also won a Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award for her dedicated work.
We caught up with Corinne before it got too deep into skiing season…
When did you start ski-racing and what exactly is ski-racing?
My family’s been skiing forever. So by the time I was four we got a place up in Kirkwood Ski Resort and we were like, OK let’s get Corinne skiing. Ski-racing is basically—you’re going about 60 miles per hour down the hill and you have to go around these red and blue gates. It’s so scary. I joined the race team when I was about 9. And I just fell in love with racing. I was so passionate about it. And then it went from there to finding my passion for helping the homeless because there was just so much stuff in the Lost and Found that was just overflowing. So it went so organically from something that I love to something else that I feel so passionate about.
That first homeless man you saw—did you ever see him again?
Yes, he’s actually the one who’s kept me going this whole time. His name is Billy. He really had nothing except for the clothes on his back and they were not enough to keep him warm and not enough to keep him going. And over the years I’ve watched him grow and he’s watched me grow and now he has a job and he has an apartment. And I think he has a dog… I’ve watched the entire tables turn for him. I’ve watched him find success and find contentment in life and it’s been absolutely incredible to watch over all these years.
What did it feel like when you handed him that first coat?
Right away, he was just like, “Oh my gosh, thank you so much.” I mean, the way his eyes lit up and the way he was just so full of hope all of a sudden was just incredible.
And now you have 32 ski areas in 12 states—how do you collect and distribute all these clothes?
Yes, we’ve donated over 33,500 items of warm clothes to 23,000 homeless. We start by calling ski resorts anywhere in the country and Australia and we get them on board. Then we get a contact for their ski teams, so those are teams who are already active in their resorts. That’s how we find our volunteers, and then, from there it’s up to them to find a shelter near them where they can donate the clothes. But we do have a monthly report so they can report how many clothes they got and the tax receipt from the shelter so we know that everything was donated, and what was donated—it’s a great way to keep track of everything.
And when you say “we”, that is…?
It’s me and my partner, Katrine Kirsebom. She’s my best friend that I started this with.
If you could have lunch or coffee with anyone and tell them about Warm Winters, who would it be?
Either Jackie Kennedy or Michelle Obama. Because they’re both women who are empowered and very dedicated to saving the world and creating a positive impact. I love both of them. They’re both so inspiring, and I’d love to tell them about what I do.
What’s next for the Warm Winters campaign?
We have a five-year goal to train 5,000 volunteers to help 50,000 homeless. We’re getting there. So we have three years left. But it’s been absolutely amazing watching how fast we’re growing to meet this goal.
And for the holidays, we throw something called The Holiday Spruce Up. We get a bunch of hairdressers that are really good and professional, and we also get a bunch of schools and churches to do coats and sock drives and toiletry drives. And we host this big event where homeless people can come in and get a free haircut or pick out up to four coats and get a bag of socks and toiletries. And it’s amazing—there’s food and it’s always fun.
How about you? After high school, any plans?
I want to go to college and study entrepreneurship so I can grow Warm Winters to a more global scale. And to just keep going, and maybe start a new project, we’ll see. I just want the training so that I can truly change the world and set up an organization that is sustainable and functioning and can keep going.
Anything else you’d like to say about Warm Winters or your Diller Teen Tikkun Olam award?
Getting the Tikkun Olam award helped me connect to a community I’ve never really accessed before. And it helped me meet not only like-minded teens but find a group of friends that I can relate to in almost every single way. We all want to impact the world. We’re all Jewish. We all carry the same values, which I think is so so rare and I think it’s amazing that I could meet that kind of community and connect with them and create lifelong friendships, as well as win an award that is recognizing me globally and nationally for the impact that I’m making.
This post is sponsored by the Helen Diller Family Foundation. To learn more about the foundation’s $36,000 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards, visit www.dillerteenawards.org