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Oregon family warms hearts every Thanksgiving giving out blankets to those in need

The Kesling family started the giving tradition six years and has grown it into a nonprofit called #WarmHearts

TOLEDO, Ohio — Holidays often bring about family traditions. But one Oregon family has a Thanksgiving tradition that has been warming hearts and a whole lot more for years.

Most people spend Thanksgiving Day with their families. But 12-year old Olivia Kesling has spent the last six years doing something different.

"We're handing out blankets today. Earlier, we handed out little bags that had blankets, coats, gloves and hats," she said.

Olivia's mom, Leigh Ann, said she knew from a young age, that Olivia wanted to help others.

"When she was 6 years old she came to us with her piggy bank in hand and wanted us to drop her off here in Toledo so that she could walk around and give her money because she said there were people that needed it more than her," Leigh Ann said.

At the time, Leigh Ann had just learned to sew. So, they combined the skill with Olivia's spirit of giving and started making blankets to give to those in need.

And the family said the effort has helped the community and they've also met so many wonderful people along the way.

"We don't like to just donate and drop off things," Leigh Ann said. "It's really nice to talk to people about their lives."

Olivia said for many people she's met, a simple blanket is something they need.

"It makes me feel really happy because it helps change the world," she said.

They gave out blankets at Toledo Gospel Rescue Mission Church, which had a free Thanksgiving meal for the community. 

Pastor Jon Nealy said it was the first one since 2019 after canceling last year's because of the pandemic. And he says some familiar faces were missing from tables because of the virus. 

But the meal itself is about so much more than just food.

"It affects their life," Nealy said. "You know when you reach out and feed someone, even if they don't need the food and they come here and we feed them, it makes a family."

Whether it's blankets or a Thanksgiving meal, people like the Kesling family are grateful to be able to give to others this holiday.

If you would like to donate or help #WarmHearts, you can visit oliviaswarmhearts.org or its Facebook page.