With the holiday season approaching and the potential for colder temperatures, a fourth-grade student named Zoey Brown sprang into action.

Zoey, who attends PVPV-Rawlings Elementary School in Ponte Vedra, Florida, was inspired by The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program and, with a bit of help from her family, she created the “Tree of Warmth,” attracting attention from across the Jacksonville area.

Zoey, whose grandmother, Pam Brown, is the sister of Major Candice Biggers, drew her initial inspiration from an otherwise innocuous conversation during a family dinner. Majors Keath and Candice Biggers are the administrators of The Salvation Army’s programs and services in northeast Florida.

“From my understanding, the trigger for this initiative was a conversation we were having during dinner with Pam, her husband, Steve, and their grandchildren,” said Major Keath Biggers.

“We were discussing the Angel Tree, and one of the children, Bronx, began calling it the ‘Homeless Tree’ by mistake. We shared how cool it was that he called it that, and how it would be great if something could come from his ‘mistake.’ Out of the mouths of babes – although he’s in elementary school – came an inspiration that the Brown family took to make a ‘Homeless Tree’ expression into the ‘Tree of Warmth,’ providing clothing accessories to protect against the cold.”

From there, Zoey urged her relatives to help, and the family purchased a Christmas tree, along with gloves, hats, and socks. They used the items to set up the “Tree of Warmth” at The Salvation Army Towers Center of Hope in Jacksonville. Since then, hundreds of winter items have been hung on the tree for shelter residents and homeless individuals to take and use to stay warm during the cold-weather season in the region.

“Several hundred men, women and children have already been recipients of the tree, and it will continue serving during the winter months, especially when the temperature drops those cold nights,” Major Biggers said. “We thank God for Zoey, Bronx and the family making this a reality and a great service to those we serve in Jacksonville.”

Zoey’s family has been a long-time adopter of angels through the Angel Tree program and, with that backdrop of experience and the familial connection, the pathway was clear. Still, the inspiration was centered on improving the lives of others by any possible means.

“Knowing that you truly can make a difference in someone’s life is huge,” said Pam Brown. “I want the children to grow up feeling that way. I want them to know how wonderful it feels to help others. We can’t thank Candy and Keath enough for allowing the children to do this and helping them to get it set up. It really means so much to our family to participate in giving back.”

By: Brad Rowland, original article

For centuries, Christians around the world have observed Lent in preparation for Easter as a way of drawing near and reflecting on Jesus’ death and resurrection and preparing themselves for baptism.

Before the fourth century, the traditional Lenten observance only lasted for 40 hours – the number of hours Jesus spent in the tomb. But since the early fourth century, Christians have fasted for the 40 days of Lent.

The number forty has several Biblical references: the forty days and nights of the great flood in the story of Noah (Genesis 7:4); the forty years the Hebrew people spent wandering in the desert (Numbers 14:33), and; the number of days Jesus fasted in the wilderness and was tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1–2Mark 1:12–13Luke 4:1–2).

For many who observe Lent today, the practice often involves giving up or “fasting” something important.

This year we invite you to take the #LentChallenge with us. Add something to your Lent observance that’s a bit more public – one where in addition to giving something up, you give something back.

You can give something easy, something needed. Like smiling at a stranger while you wait for the elevator. Or buying an extra cup of coffee and sharing a cup of encouragement for a co-worker, classmate or friend.

Or you can fast some of your time or financial resources to help us care for people who are struggling to make ends meet in your community. For instance, you can help pack up boxes at one of our food pantries or deliver hot meals to home-bound seniors. Or you can make a financial gift that helps us purchase the nutritious food that sustains our neighbors in need.

Sign-up for 40Acts: The folks at #40Acts are challenging us to “do Lent generously.” Click here and sign up at their website to receive a daily Lenten meditation and suggestion for an easy act of generosity. You’ll be glad you did.

Fast your time: Spend some time making life better for someone else who lives in your community. Click here to locate your nearest Salvation Army location and look for a meaningful way to give back. Invite a friend!

Fast your $$: The Salvation Army has dozens of ways to care about someone in need in your zip code.  Click here for our donation page so we can pool our gifts together to make life better for our neighbors. Thank you!

Thank you for taking the #LentChallenge with us. May your season be filled with meaning as you share and prepare for Easter.

>> This post originally appeared on ExpectChange.org <<<