The United States has developed a large homeless problem with more than half a million people not having a place to sleep each night. In the city of New Orleans, Louisiana alone, there are nearly 2,000 homeless people, a number that has at least thankfully declined sharply since Hurricane Katrina. Still, that is a lot of people in need of help that have not received much of it. Thankfully, there are two boys that are looking to change that.
Meet Kyllon and Derrell Martin, two brothers (nine and 10 years old, respectively) that have have started their own charity to provide food to the homeless people of New Orleans. The Martin boys created The Helping Lunch Box Project after even their own family was displaced as a result of Hurricane Katrina. It was tough for the Martin family to see all of the people from their hometown suffering when they returned.
The project started small with the brothers using food from their own house to stuff into brown paper bags and drop off to homeless people that had been camping out underneath a bridge. The bags were filled with sandwiches, cookies and other snacks and the bags adorning inspirational messages along with a name to help raise hunger awareness. The entire family was taking part in the project, which quickly started to grow.
People started to catch wind of Kyllon and Derrell’s effort, and donations started to come in from extended family members to help fund the Helping Lunch Box Project. The project really started to take off when local station WDSU featured the two boys on their program “Now This News” and it went viral among New Orleans citizens andbeyond. A non-profit organization in the city named B.O.S.S. Youth Outreach Program saw the boys, who wanted to become partners.
When Kyllon and Derrell were handing out their brown bags, a B.O.S.S. representative reached out to them about growing the project. B.O.S.S. co-founder Albert Jones said that “This is their baby…and we just came on board to help them grow it. And it’s wonderful and refreshing to be so passionate about making a difference and making a chance by simply just making lunch bags.”
Before the partnership, Kyllon and Derrell were able to reach out to about 50 homeless people for one day each month. It was a big impact, but now with their partnership, the boys are able to reach nearly 75 people per day. This has been in thanks to increased awareness, which has lead to a lot of new volunteers that are ready to help and donate any leftover food that they might have. The project’s marketing has also had a farther reach since teaming up with B.O.S.S.
Their mother, Kristy Martin, could not be more proud of the boys. “As their parent, I am glad that at such a young age they understand that there are people out here that actually need help,” she said. “To see them being so selfless – taking time out of their day when they could be playing with their friends or playing video games – they encourage me to want to do better.”
The impact and inspiration that Kyllon and Derrell have had have reached far beyond the family as they receive more and more support, meaning that they are able to hand out a lot more free meals than ever before. Not only do they have the partnership with B.O.S.S. to help them grow, but they have also landed another partnership with the Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church to receive more food once school starts back up in the fall.
Kyllon and Derrell might not be able to solve the hunger problem throughout all of the United States, or even New Orleans, but the fact that they are trying their hardest and doing it on their own time says a lot about the two boys.