RICHMOND, Va. -- Amy Rybar Menefee and Mike Menefee never forget their roots. While studying in 2000, the pair and two friends saw a need right outside their front door.
Mike and Amy were troubled watching men and women sleeping outside in the bitter cold.
"You know Monroe Park is where everything started for Charitable Souls," Amy said.
“We would walk through Monroe Park and see people without even a blanket so we would give them something extra and that is really how it started,” Mike added. “We’ve been at this for well over 20 years and we’re going to keep trucking.”
They founded Charitable Souls to buy and distribute sleeping bags.
Twenty years later the response has been overwhelming.
“Since that time we’ve distributed 2,200 sleeping bags to the homeless,” Mike said.
“They’ve specifically told us that there are a few people who did not freeze to death because of our sleeping bags,” Amy added.
The volunteers with the non-profit have expanded their mission to include the written word. Every year members collect and distribute hundreds of children’s books to schools and other non-profits.
“At St. Joseph’s Villa they’ve told us specifically the reading level has improved there because of us. And if you want to help someone get out of poverty you help them read,” Amy said.
Charitable Souls also comforts the elderly every holiday season. Inside their gift bags simple items requested by seniors isolated in nursing homes.
"Some of them need socks or some of them need lotion," Amy said. “To take a little bit of my time to try to help somebody else who is having a hard time. That is what we’re supposed to do."
The pandemic is preventing members from visiting with seniors during the Christmas season.
“We always try to get them what they want because this could be their only Christmas gift,” Amy said. "Regardless of what the gift is I think that is more important."
Charitable Souls is even more driven this year to provide holiday cheer. Mike Menefee and Amy Rybar Menefee are two VCU graduates who have earned Phds in compassion.
“We’re not going to solve all of the world’s problems, but if we can improve the folks lives just a little bit that’s what we’re trying to do just a little bit,” Mike said.
Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find unique, award-winning stories every day on CBS 6 News: