Krystal O'Dell inspires Facebook group — and her own children — to help.
When Krystal O’Dell was visiting her children's school, Sugar Mill Elementary School, one chilly day in November, she overheard a teacher say, “Principal says anyone who needs a jacket that doesn’t have one, send them to the office and we will see what we can find.” It was a simple announcement, but it made a profound impact on O'Dell.
“I went to my car, and I wept,” she recalled.
She decided to do something about it.
O’Dell, a Port Orange resident since 2016, spread the word on a Facebook page called Port Orange Parents Connect.
She wrote that when she heard about the need for jackets, "My brain started asking a million questions. Did they have to wait for the bus like that? How long did they wait for the bus? Do they walk to school? How far did they walk? You can’t tell who didn’t own one and who just didn’t want to wear the one they had! ... Sure, it’s going to be 70-80 degrees again soon but our cold weather comes and goes until April.”
She then offered to collect jackets if others wanted to donate them. She also wrote, “If your child needs a coat and your reading this….. text me! No questions asked.”
The responses began to pour in, and O'Dell decided to set up meetings at the Port Orange Police station.
Lisa Seiferth, a friend of O’Dell's, has been collecting with her, as has a teacher from New Smyrna Beach Middle School, Michele Henderson.
On a drive on Dec. 1, Henderson and O’Dell talked during the coat drive.
“She told me stories, and it broke my heart,” O’Dell recalled. Henderson told her that some of the kids also needed hygiene products, so they decided to put together a drive for shampoo, deodorant, body spray, lotion, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other items.
One of O'Dell's inspirations is a life-changing quote that she read one evening: "Use your voice for kindness, your ears for compassion, your hands for charity, your mind for truth, and your heart for love."
She decided that her goal as a parent is to raise her kids to live with that mindset. And she decided, " The only way I can do that is if I show them myself. ... I tell my kids we can’t change the world by just sitting still.”
She recruited her children's help during the coat drives and donated to their school, Sugar Mill Elementary, on Tuesday Dec. 4. She gave the items to the principal. The children also help with folding the clothing and are collecting hygiene products.
O’Dell's next plan of action is passing out the items collected to New Smyrna Middle School and Silver Sands Middle School, with Henderson's help.