There was a hint of Thanksgiving and Christmas all rolled up into one Nov. 18 when teenager Camden Eggers and his family arrived at the parking lot behind Our Father’s House on Monterey Street in Hollister. Eggers was bringing gifts to those who cannot just walk into Target or go online to buy what could quite literally save their lives in the coming months—a warm winter coat.
Eggers wasn’t just bringing a few coats; he brought 246 coats that he had been collecting around Hollister as part of his Eagle Scout project. But to Eggers it was much more than just reaching the pinnacle of scouting; it was a mission of compassion for people who sometimes go unseen even in a community as small as Hollister.
Eggers, who has been in scouting five years, said in order to become an Eagle Scout he had to come up with a project to benefit the community, so he decided to have a coat drive for children. But as the coats began to accumulate, he had quite a few for adults too. Early on, he contacted Linda Lampe at Our Father’s House and told her he was collecting coats and wanted to give them to the homeless. He had already collected a number of coats for children, which he gave to R.O. Hardin Elementary School for those whose families that could not afford them.
By the time he and his family showed up at Our Father’s House, he had collected many more than he had expected to by first taking flyers around various neighborhoods to announce his drive and later going house to house, along with fellow members of Troop 777, to pick them up on the porches. Lampe had also been putting out the word to her “friends,” as she calls the homeless she ministers to, that coats, along with shoes and other donated items, would be given away.
Lampe laid down the rules to them, one being they had to sign in with their real names so she would not only know who received the coats, but who they were in case they ended up in the hospital. Since many go by nicknames, she told them if she were to go to the hospital to check on who might be there she had to have their real name because the hospital staff would not know them by their nicknames. She also had to firmly, but gently, stop one woman who had stuffed six coats into a bag, telling her she could take one for herself, but she had to remember others needed coats too.
Eggers explained what had started out as an Eagle Scout project turned into much more.
“It makes me feel very grateful for everything I have and it makes me want to help the homeless community even more,” he said as his proud parents stood nearby. Being a teen, he was a bit awkward in trying to explain what he wanted to do, but his dad, Rob, who is a scout leader, had one word to describe his son’s efforts, “Awesome.”
“I’ve had other boys working toward Eagle Scout who have done things for schools and other groups, and Cam was really trying to figure out who is most in need in the community and came up with the idea of the coat drive,” he said. “He went out into the community with flyers and talked to various schools. He really wanted to impact the people who needed something the most.”
Camden’s mom, Christi, was beaming at his accomplishment.
“It was great,” she said. “It started out small, as ‘I’d like to help the homeless community,’ and just exploded to Mrs. Lampe helping him actually meet some of the people he’s going to affect instead of just handing the coats to someone. It’s grown bigger than I think he ever thought. I don’t think he thought he would get nearly as many coats as he did. He really had children in mind in the beginning, and then began wondering what he was going to do with all the adult coats. That’s when we got in touch with My Father’s House.”
Lampe said she was overwhelmed with Eggers’ effort to serve. She said she first met Eggers at the LDS Church for a religious freedom event.
“He came up to me and said ‘I’m so excited to meet you,’ and that was my initial shock because I wondered why he was excited to meet me,” she said. “Then he told me that for his Eagle Scout project he was gathering coats. At that time, he had gathered around 70 coats for men and 50 for women. It grew since then because his mom contacted me and said ‘we want to bring food,’ and the next thing I knew it grew and grew. We’ve put out messages to all of our camps.”
She said after the give-a-way that afternoon, along with a meal of pulled pork and salad provided by the LDS church, she and her husband Pat would take what coats were left out to the various homeless camps scattered around the county to give the coats and food away.
“He is so amazing,” she said of Eggers. “Just imagine if there were 20 other people to get the spirit he had we could change this community. I’m honored and thrilled to see young people doing this.”
Other members of the community also brought donated items. Joseph Felice and his two sons, Tristin and Dacien, showed up carrying plastic bags filled with women’s clothing that had belonged to the boy’s mom.
“I had dropped off some winter coats and we’re bringing some women’s clothing,” Felice said. “I was going to take these to Goodwill, but when I saw ladies’ stuff on the tables I thought I should bring them here.”
One man, in particular, was appreciative of what Eggers, the Felice family and others were doing for the homeless. Randy Gay was born and raised in Hollister and has six brothers and sisters here. He had been homeless 11 years and he knows the value of a warm coat, especially if it fits. Gay is a big guy who needs triple X clothing and one of the coats that Felice had bought, and still had the price tag attached, was triple X. The Felice family personally presented Gay with the new coat—and it fit perfectly.