There’s more than a mountain of snow at ski resorts each season, as giant piles of winter coats, mittens, hats and scarves accumulate in the lost-and-found departments.

Back in 2011, two 11-year-old ski racers from the Bay Area, Corinne Hindes and Katherine Kirsebom, noticed these mountains of unclaimed winter wear at Lake Tahoe ski resorts and decided to use them to help less fortunate people.

They didn’t stop with just donating one batch of coats to homeless shelters and other charities, however. The girls founded the nonprofit Warm Winters, and to date, the organization has donated 5,000 pieces of warm clothing to help thousands of homeless people.

Even though Hindes and Kirsebom are still only teenagers, they plan to expand Warm Winters nationally with the help of a 2013 Jefferson Award, given by a foundation that describes itself as “the country’s longest standing and most prestigious organization dedicated to activating and celebrating public service.”

As part of the award, Hindes is studying leadership with the Jefferson Awards Globe Changers Leadership Program. She aims to expand Warm Winters to 10 ski-friendly states, while keeping the program a teen-led initiative as they work with the National Ski Area Association to get it off the ground at 50 or more ski resorts.

Hindes tells TalkingGood, “There was a time a few years back where I saw a homeless man in a T-shirt and jeans on a terribly cold day in winter and I was horrified by how cold he was, and the fact that he had no jacket to shield him from the cold broke my heart. That was a moment where I gained clarity about my purpose because I knew that I had to help him and others like him in any way that I could, and I had to do all that I could to make their situation better. When I gave my first coat to a homeless person, the smile on his face gave me the most rewarding feeling I had ever felt, and it still does today.”

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