Tucson Teen Warms up the Homeless


DEDICATED–Michelle Garrard collects coats for the needy.

by Annie Woods-Tornick – 

“I was naked and you clothed me” is a Bible passage that Tucson teenager Michelle Garrard takes to heart. Since 1995, the 17-year-old honor student and recent Miss Arizona Teenager has collected more than 650 coats for the Tucson Metropolitan Salvation Army’s homeless shelter, Hospitality House–314 coats in 1998 alone!

Her mission began on a cold, windy winter night when she and her mother saw three young people in thin clothing huddled at a dark intersection. They held a cardboard sign stating: “Broke, homeless, please help. God bless.”

They brought the people some food, gave them a quarter and said, “Call The Salvation Army.” But Michelle wanted to do more. With many of Tucson’s homeless coming to Hospitality House during the winter, The Salvation Army was a perfect fit for her project.

She enlisted the help of maternal grandparents, Clarence and Rose Hamersen, longtime Salvation Army supporters, plus 27 dry cleaning businesses, three churches and her high school. All donated coats were cleaned and repaired. She made it easy for donors by picking up the coats, and always followed up with a thank-you note.

Michelle comes from a proactive family. Parents John and Carol Garrard write and lecture about the Holocaust in Russia, and younger sister Alison helps disabled children learn to ride horses, and will continue the coat project when Michelle goes to college.

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