Local teen uses birthday money to help those in need


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Most years for his birthday July 31, Gabriel Poole asks for gift cards so he can buy what he wants.

This year, though, he focused on what others need instead of what he wants.

About a month before his 14th birthday, the Seymour teen was eating at Rails Craft Brew and Eatery with his parents, Jason and Lindsey Poole, when they asked what he wanted this year.

“Instead of wanting to get something for iTunes or cards, I figured it would be beneficial to help Anchor House,” Gabriel said of the nonprofit organization that helps homeless families and individuals and offers a community food pantry for those in need. “I know they help other people, so I wanted to donate.”

That was a pleasant surprise to his parents.

“Myself and Lindsey have always had a servant’s heart through church and stuff like that, and we help with Cold Night Out Shelter. Actually, me and Lindsey met at a training session for Cold Night Out,” Jason said.

“We had never really involved Gabe in any of that stuff, so for him to just come out of the blue really and just say, ‘Hey, I want to just donate everything I get for my birthday to somewhere,’ I was like, ‘Whoa! Really?’” he said. “As a father, because you’ve done this kind of stuff, your heart just sinks and you become speechless really.”

As Gabriel’s birthday approached, Lindsey posted on Facebook explaining what he wanted to do and that they were accepting donations from others to help the cause.

“A lot of people really reached out to us on Facebook and they sent birthday cards with money and through Venmo and stuff like that, and we collected all of that together,” Jason said.

Adding that to the money Gabriel received from his family, he had $300 to spend at Dollar Tree to buy hygiene products and food.

Arriving at the Seymour store Aug. 1, the Poole family and Gabriel’s friend, Ryan Hagan, first visited the hygiene products aisle, filling carts with toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, deodorant and more.

“I definitely made sure to conserve each dollar by getting six-packs, eight-packs,” Gabriel said.

Then they went to the food aisles and filled another cart.

“I heard that apparently, a lot of (Anchor House clients) grab and go through the day, so I got a bunch of cookies, all kinds of different treats,” Gabriel said.

They pushed three carts to the checkout, and a cashier rang up $280 worth of items. When Gabriel learned he had some money left and the store was collecting school supplies for kids, he went back to the stationery aisle and picked up items to donate.

As employees and customers realized what they were doing, Gabriel said several of them praised him and said “God bless you.”

One of the store employees, Jennifer Walker, shared a picture of Gabriel’s long receipt on Facebook.

“I want to say that working in a store, you get to see the worst of people at times. Today, however, was not that day,” she wrote before explaining what Gabriel did.

“I almost cried at times ringing it all up because that restored a little bit of faith in the kindness of people,” she wrote. “He wasn’t getting anything but knowing that it would be helping people in need. He was genuinely happy about that. I wouldn’t have been that thoughtful at that age. This completely made my day. You are truly an awesome young man.”

Jason and Lindsey were proud, too.

“Just seeing him take the lead inside Dollar Tree and just start putting stuff that he thought everyone needed in the cart, he even went to get bath bombs and stuff to put in there,” Jason said. “Everyone on the comments (on the post) was like, ‘You’ve raised a good kid,’ a lot of ‘Good parents’ and role model-type posts and comments and stuff.”

Seeing that made him feel like he was on cloud nine, Jason said.

“You’re like, ‘Whoa!’ trying to think what’s next for him, what he can think of additional from here on out, even for Christmases and stuff like that,” Jason said.

“So proud of this kid and his amazing heart,” Lindsey added.

After they left Dollar Tree, the family drove to Anchor House East Overnight Shelter to deliver the goods.

“They all came out immediately to help unload from the van and took the bags, and they were all like, ‘Happy birthday, Gabe! Thank you,’” Jason said.

Gabriel said he didn’t do this wanting anything in return.

“Personally, I don’t even like to thank myself for doing it. I want to thank the people that actually gave us the money to donate,” he said. “The only reason I really decided to go here and do that was because I wanted more people to be inspired to donate to Anchor House or any nonprofit organization.”

Any amount of money helps, he said.

“You don’t have to spend $300, but just a couple of bucks,” Gabriel said. “It doesn’t matter how much you spend. As long as it goes to somewhere that you know will help someone else.”

People can give of their time, too, and Gabriel said he’s interested in volunteering at Anchor House sometime. He encourages others to do the same.

“I would love to help,” he said. “I set the ground for it, and now, it’s other people’s turn to help. You might be tired at the end of the day, but you know it’s worth it in the end.”

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