Righteous Keitt, a sophomore at Philip O. Berry Academy of Technology, is only 16 yet he has already started his own organization providing the homeless with more than 100 nonwoven drawstring bags this year filled with toiletries, food and clothing.
Keitt’s organization, called Bags 4 Bagless, allows recipients to keep not only the toiletries he distributes but the bags the items are stored in.
Keitt, who lives in Charlotte’s Northwoods neighborhood, remembers the moment he had a few years ago that led him to start the organization in January.
He and his aunt were distributing little bags filled with toothpaste, washrags and hand soap at a downtown homeless shelter when a homeless man asked to keep Keitt’s school book bag to hold some of his belongings.
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“It was an awakening,” Keitt said, who gave the man his book bag.
Keitt said he had never considered the homeless must need something to carry around their belongings.
While he had planned to wait until he was older to start a nonprofit, his mother Dana Keitt offered to purchase 50 bags, which also double as backpacks, for him to start right away.
“I’ve loved doing it ever since,” Keitt said. He hopes to get nonprofit status for Bags 4 Bagless soon.
Dana Keitt said she thought it was important to support and encourage Righteous and provide him the tools necessary for him to succeed.
But the fact her son is volunteering for such an honorable cause makes her proud.
“I think we’re just blessed,” said Dana Keitt, an analyst for Wells Fargo. “We just try to make sure he knows what’s important in life. It’s about helping others.”
While Righteous’ parents monitor the organization’s operations, it is Righteous who carries the workload by accepting donations, ordering more bags when needed and stuffing the bags, Dana Keitt said.
Keitt set up a web site www.bags4bagless.com to accept donations.
“Every donation is like the first donation,” said Dana Keitt. “He gets so excited.”
It was also Keitt’s idea to set up the organization as a nonprofit instead of a business so all the money raised would go to the cause.
It’s not good enough to just give them bags. You need to be helping and solving the problem.
Dana Keitt said the money to do all this work has come from donations from family, friends and Righteous’ school, as well as money Righteous has earned working with his dad, Jonathan who is a photographer, and from Righteous’ allowance.
Since the beginning of the year, Keitt has spent $300 of his own money to buy more bags and the toiletries, hats, clothes and food he stuffs them with.
Keitt said a memorable occasion happened when he had given a bag to the same man for second time at a homeless shelter.
The man recognized him and alerted his friends to Keitt’s generosity.
“It was a great experience,” Keitt said. “I thought, ‘I think we’re going to be friends in the future.’”
When Keitt is older he plans on entering politics to help make real change, he said.
“It’s not good enough to just give them bags,” said Keitt. “You need to be helping and solving the problem.”
Keitt also wants kids his age to know they can do things that make a difference too. They don’t have to be stereotyped into a rap or sports career based on what they look like or even get a job just because their parents work in the same field.
Keitt’s best advice?
“You can go in your own direction, follow your own path,” said Keitt. “Do what you want to do because this is your life.”
Kate Stevens is a freelance writer: email@example.com.