‘I had never really seen a homeless person before, it kind of opened my eyes’: Local teen collects coats for homeless

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LENOIR CITY, Tenn. (WATE) — Winter is right around the corner, and 15-year-old Austin Owens is already thinking ahead. He’s been using his free time to collect coats for the less fortunate and those experiencing homelessness.

“I’m always wearing a hoodie, so I thought someone else would like a hoodie or a coat to keep warm,” Owens said.

He’s teamed up with the nonprofit, One Warm Coat to raise money for winter coats. He’s also been collecting donated coats to distribute himself. Owens attends online school Tennessee Connections Academy. The flexibility of the program allows him time to dedicate time to this project. 

This idea came from a family trip to New York. Austin saw something there that stuck with him.

“I went to New York and there was a homeless person in the subway and I’ve never really seen a homeless person before so it kind of opened my eyes,” Owens said.

Austin was 12 years old on that trip. Now at 15, he’s using that image engrained in his memory to help the less fortunate in his hometown. The community response has been more than he expected. The calls keep coming and the coats are piling up.

“We couldn’t be happier. We’re glad that he can feel and sense stuff going on in the community,” said Austin’s mom, Jamie.

So far, Austin has already collected 60 coats and has received donations totaling more than $300. He’ll be collecting coats and monetary donations until November 30.

If you would like to donate a coat, you can drop it off at 5480 Industrial Park Drive in Lenoir City. Austin and his mother will also pick up coats. If you have coats that need to be picked up, you can call  865-270-9130 to schedule a time.

Monetary donations can be contributed here.

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