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Good Samaritan helps homeless by hanging free jackets from light posts

A 20-year-old college student purchased winter coats at a second-hand store and then taped them to light posts around Portland, Maine.
/ Source: TODAY

With five bucks and a trip to Goodwill, Gabby Kaper thinks she may have started something.

The 20-year-old college student purchased five winter coats at the second-hand store during this week's “dollar deal Monday."

She then taped them around five light posts in downtown Portland, Maine, with a note on each: “I am not lost! Please take me if you need me!”

Gabby Kaper

As she walked back to her car, she noticed someone taking down one of the coats.

“He signaled his friend, and they were so excited,” she told She went up to talk to them and share the location of the other coats.

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“They said, ‘Thank you so much. We’re still sleeping on the street. This will definitely help.'"

"I can’t describe the feeling that gave me," she said.

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Kaper later posted a photo to Facebook, sharing the story of her bargain purchase and how it had already helped others.

"People are homeless, people are cold," she wrote. "$5 to make five people less freezing, $5 to make someone sleep a little better tonight. $5 may be very little to me but very important to another. I encourage everyone to give this a try this season.”

Kaper's coats got noticed by other town residents, including a local journalist, and the story spread quickly.

Kaper hasn’t left any additional coats since Monday, but she's heard from friends and family members who have followed her lead.

“They’ve told me they’re hanging up jackets, hats and mittens everywhere now," she said. "I can’t tell you enough how happy that makes me, that people are helping others. It's the best thing in the world."

Kaper said she originally read about the coat idea somewhere online.

"I thought it would be an easy and inexpensive way to help out a few people, even if it’s just a few people because helping one person is better than helping no one," she said.

She hopes the trend will catch on in other locations.

“What I’m hoping is that other people in other cities and states will see how easy this was for me and realize there’s no reason they can’t do the same,” she said.

A similar "scarf-bombing" project is underway in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

The "Wrap Up, Lancaster" project leaves scarves knitted by volunteers in public places for anyone in need.

Follow writer Eun Kyung Kim on Twitter.