AKRON, Ohio — In 2015, Erin Victor was volunteering at a soup kitchen in Akron when she was inspired to do something to give back to those experiencing homelessness in the community. After hearing the stories of those she was serving, she took to Facebook, asking for donations of cold weather gear.
Before she knew it, the post gained traction, resulting in cars full of donations to distribute. From there, Victor started Akron Snow Angels. The Snow Angels collect cold weather goods, toiletries, and even distribute meals for the homeless, and also work with other organizations to provide supplies.
“The busiest time for us is November through April, we kind of ramp things up,” Victor said. There are two to three missions a month during the “season,” in addition to working with other organizations and social workers when they need items.
“The thing that sets us apart from other organizations is we are very emergency based,” she said. “Somebody can call us and we are going to get right to them as fast as possible.”
Victor said the goal for this season was to have items ready to go so they weren’t working to find items when stores were sold out during the winter months. This year, Victor said they used money from donors to buy brand new heavy duty coats and snow boots in sizes that are often in demand.
“We worked really hard to find wholesalers and different places to purchase items from this summer,” she said.
With those new coats and boots purchased, Victor said they stored them in the warehouse space they were using at the time. However, one night in late summer, she received a message from someone else who used the space, who had spotted something fishy.
“I received a text message from one of the tenants saying, ‘wow, you guys work really late at night!’ I sort of asked him what he meant,” she said. “My husband and I went to the warehouse and looked around and realized that somebody had really went in and picked what they wanted.”
Victor realized those brand new goods they had purchased had been stolen.
“It broke my heart. It was a feeling - I don’t really know I can describe it,” she said.
Victor estimated about $25-30,000 in coats and boots were gone.
“It’s just really upsetting,” she said. “We’re responsible – I feel really responsible to make sure that people are warm. And they count on us. There’s a lot of different people that count on us.”
Now, in the busiest time of the year, Victor said it’s upsetting to know some people may have to wait to receive a coat that could make all the difference.
“Those were the most expensive items that normally we don’t have donated, and that’s everything that got stolen. If we had to go back and purchase those now, it would at least be double or triple the price,” she said.
Victor said they worked with a wholesaler to get the best deals they could, and purchased off season to ensure the prices were lower. “It put us in a pretty tough spot for the next mission season,” she said.
However, Victor won’t give up helping those who need it.
“We’re going to do whatever we need to do to help those people, but financially, the money that we put towards buying those items, we can’t just go spend that money again.”
Now, they are in a new warehouse location, and are getting organized in their new space. Victor said their previous warehouse space was generously donated.
If you want to help, Victor said they always take volunteers, and also accept financial donations and donations of winter items. For more information, head to their website.
*Editor's Note: The video in the player above is from a previous, unreleated report.