Working at TeenNick, I’m super lucky to be on a committee that helps select each month’s HALO EFFECT awardee. An off-shot of the annual HALO AWARDS, each month the HALO EFFECT honors a different young person who’s shown a commitment to Helping And Leading Others (HALO, get it?). Each awardee gets recognized on-air and receives a $5,000 donation to support the charity initiative they support.
Perhaps we’ve never had a HALO EFFECT honoree as deserving, or at least as BUSY, as December’s Nicholas Cobb. He has literally been working to help homeless people since he was 7(!). Yeah, but Nicholas didn’t start his own charity until the ripe old age of 12. (Slacker!) Seriously though, this guy is AMAZ-ing. He’s in college now, but showing no signs of slowing down—no, quite the opposite. He’s getting a degree in Computer Science but he’s also expanding his non-profit, Comfort & Joy, so it can scale and help thousands more in states across America.
In addition to those he helps, his “HALO effect” touches lives in other ways as well. He is so inspiring and his story is a great example of how you’re never too young to make a difference—and have a real impact on making the world a better place.
So Nicholas, tell us your story: How did you first start making a difference and working to improve people’s lives?
NICHOLAS: I have been concerned about the homeless since I was very young and did not understand why there would be people sitting under a bridge in a box in the winter. I have researched homelessness and know that it could happen to anyone and I wanted to do something about it. I have completed projects from collecting travel size soap, lotion and shampoo from neighbors that travel when I was 7, to organizing community supply drives when I was 12. I wanted to do something that I could do for more than one year that would help people for a longer period of time. My mother was working on starting a business so I asked if I could start one too, to help homeless people. She said, ‘yes’ and agreed to be my consultant.
So, in 2009, I started my own non-profit corporation, Comfort and Joy. The purpose was to raise money to buy coats for homeless families and help in other ways. We listened to Christmas music for inspiration and came up with the name from the chorus of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” When they say “O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy”, I thought, that’s it. That is the name for the company because I want to provide comfort (warmth) and joy (a nice gift) to families at Christmas time. I had just advanced to Life Scout in the Boy Scouts of America, and my Eagle Scout project was to raise money to buy coats for 129 families at the Samaritan Inn. That was the first project of Comfort and Joy.
In 2010, the first year, 100 people donated $3400 against my goal of $2725. I have also partnered with Burlington Coat Factory on discounts to purchase the coats. The project has grown to include a car washes held for a benefit, as well as a grants from the Paul Newman Foundation, the Junior League, The Do Something Foundation, The Home Depot Foundation and others.
What has Comfort & Joy done, and whom has it impacted so far?
NICHOLAS: Through Comfort and Joy I have raised $40000 to help people. I have donated 700 coats, built a healthy eating garden at a children’s shelter, rehabbed the home of a senior citizen, given book scholarships and supported the feeding charity United Friends to Feed the Homeless.
Was your young age an obstacle, a liability — or did it work to your advantage?
NICHOLAS: Age was somewhat of an advantage. I think people liked hearing a fresh voice and they were encouraged that a young person was involved and they seemed to get excited to help because I was excited to help.
When and how did you start Comfort and Joy?
NICHOLAS: To get the non-profit going I created a website, solicited contributions and partnered with local companies to match the money I raised. In total so far, I raised $34,000 to provide coats to 700 family members at the Samaritan Inn Homeless Shelter, City House Shelter for abused and abandoned children and the Allen Community Outreach. On “National Make a Difference Day,” each year since 2010, I organize my family, friends, church members and my Boy Scout Troop 306 to organize and tag the coats. I have had more than 200 volunteers and donors! I have also funded and helped to build a Healthy Eating Garden at the City House shelter for youth, refurbish the home of a senior citizen, offer book scholarships to teens going to college, and make a donation of $1000 to United Friends to Feed the Homeless.
WOW, Nicholas. You are too much! Your community is really lucky to have you!
NICHOLAS: In addition to helping the community, I think the volunteers that worked with me benefitted as well. We had fun working together and we knew we were a part of something bigger than us.
In addition to the warm comfort and joy-ness of coats, I know you do a lot to feed people, as well.
NICHOLAS: In 2010, I went to the City House shelter for abandoned children and teenagers with my usual project of donating coats. We gave 54 coats that year. They needed the coats and accepted them but also shared with me an even more basic need. The staff asked if I would be interested in helping with another project. They said what they really needed was help with food. Many of the young people there are very transient and were not able to develop healthy eating habits. They wanted to have a curriculum to teach the children about healthy eating, and plot and plant a healthy eating garden. They needed healthy food for the kids there. Fresh fruits and vegetables are expensive so they were eating a lot of canned food. They asked if I could help so I did. It has nothing to do with coats, which is what I do, but it is what they needed.
I donated $11,000 to this effort in 2011 and the Nicholas Cobb Healthy Eating Garden stands to this day! I feel like this project is important because any of us could become homeless, so it is important for us to try to help when we can. A new coat could help them when they go out for a job interview and could help them get back up on their feet. I think besides just keeping the homeless warm in the winter we also let them know that we care about them and we respond to other needs that our clients have like the healthy eating garden.
And on top of all this you’ve helped with housing too, right?
NICHOLAS: In 2012, I was a finalist for the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ (VFW) Eagle Scout of the Year. They really like my project and agreed to work with me on future projects. I asked them to help identify a community need and we located a senior citizen whose home was desperately in need of repair. I wrote for a grant from the Home Depot and received it. With that grant, volunteers from the VFW and volunteers from my school’s chapter of The National Honor Society we were able to refurbish the home and make it much more comfortable and functional for this community member.
Whew, I’m exhausted just hearing about all you’ve done! Anything else to add? (I know there will be!)
NICHOLAS: In 2013, I gave books scholarships to youth at my church going to college and also donated $1000 to United Friends to Feed the Homeless. My plan for my capstone senior year project in 2014 is to work with the Veterans Administration in its Homeless Stand Down program. They have many needs on their request list and my goal is to provide the 600 coats they need. My father and my grandfather are both veterans and I think this is a great way to give back to those who have given to us.
So Nicholas, how are you continuing your philanthropic work now that you’re a busy college student?
NICHOLAS: This year we gave coats to the Veterans Administration for Vets in the Homeless Stand Down.
What plans do you have to continue and/or expand Comfort and Joy?
NICHOLAS: I want to expand Comfort and Joy nationwide and have chapters in every major city. I want other young people to experience the feeling of giving back to the community.
What was it like being chosen a TeenNick HALO Effect winner? (Feel free to say it sucked. ) 😉
It was awesome! I have been seeing HALO on TeenNick since I was a kid. I never thought it could be me!
To find out more about the HALO Awards and the HALO Effect, go to www.teennick.com.
To learn about Nicholas and all he’s done and doing, check out:
NBC News Segment-
Channel 33 News Segment-
Fox 4 Segment-
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