By Kelcey Norris
Seeing a need in her community, a Youngstown State University student created a Facebook group called “Kind Hearts, Blessed Souls.” Her idea snowballed into a close-knit community she never anticipated.
Michelle McDonald, a senior social work major, explained the group is similar to a buy, sell, trade group but with a catch.
“There is absolutely no money, no selling transactions whatsoever,” McDonald said. “You get on, say, things you need, and someone basically is like, ‘Oh, I have that lying around my house,’ then they gift it to them without any payment.”
McDonald created the group on Dec. 15, 2019, and has watched it flourish in followers beyond her expectations.
She said the majority of the members are from Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.
“Within 24 hours of that first day, we had 1,000 followers,” McDonald said. “It just exploded. People just kept sharing the link.”
The group now has over 11,000 followers. Her inspiration came during the holiday season, a time where many are struggling to provide for their families as well as purchase gifts.
“I’ve always wanted to sponsor a family for Christmas, and I never have any money. I’m a student and I’m a mom,” she said. “I was looking around the house and saw I had all this stuff and thought, ‘Why don’t I just donate it? Why don’t we do that?’”
She said donors often give their unwanted items to stores like the Salvation Army and Goodwill, but those businesses sell the items for profit, which defeats the purpose of donation.
“It really helps people in need because you don’t have to pay for it,” McDonald said. “You meet up with somebody, pick a meet date for the drop-off at your convenience. … It really helps people because it’s literally free.”
She said being a donor matches members of the community to their neighbors and serves as another outlet to give back.
“One of the neat things about our page is that you get to pick who you’re giving your stuff to, so it’s a little more personal,” McDonald said. “And as a giver, you have the benefits of helping someone and it gets rid of your clutter.”
Trish Kuzel, a Hubbard native, was one of the first members of Kind Hearts, Blessed Souls before the number of followers skyrocketed.
Kuzel said she participated as both a donor and a recipient in the group.
“We may need things, but if we have something we’re not using that’s just sitting around or no longer fits, it’s a great feeling to help those that need that stuff,” Kuzel said. “To see how happy we made people is one of the greatest feelings.”
Another member of the Facebook group, Amanda Oesch, is originally from Youngstown, Ohio. She said McDonald’s influence in her life has been tremendous.
“She’s a true inspiration,” Oesch said. “I wonder how many hardened hearts have already melted and warmed just because of one tiny little idea. You can feel the love radiating off this page.”
Oesch said she is grateful for the new friends she’s made in the group.
“I would never have guessed so many people truly cared. … So wonderful to know,” Oesch said. “It’s like I can relax a little and breathe knowing … if I need something, truly need something and can’t get it for myself, some kind heart will have my back.”