Hats and Hot Tea and 901 Hope Project Volunteers. (Photo: Jet Eye Digital)

Traditionally, Black Friday has been the day to get up early and start shopping for the Christmas holidays. People have been known to camp out to get the lowest-priced deals of the year. Fortunately, there are others who’d rather focus on giving than getting that day.

Count Middle Tennessee State University alums Eric Ryan Brinson, Amelia Pearson and Melvin Rucker among those looking to serve on a day that’s normally focused on shopping. In 2016, the three were students when they created Hats and Hot Tea as an outreach initiative to serve the homeless on Black Friday.

This year’s Hats and Hot Tea – the second – was held Nov. 22 at Brinson’s Downtown. Brinson, Leonard Holcombe (aka DJ King) and Angel Perkins were the coordinators, collecting clothing and hygiene items to give to homeless men and women associated with the 901 Hope Project.

Angel Perkins (right) and a Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity member manning a donation station. (Photo: Jet Eye Digital)

“The joy of helping those who attended this year’s Hats and Hot Tea giveaway is a feeling that will stick with me forever. It was a pleasure working with DJ King and all of the volunteers,” said Brinson. “The impact we made on these people showed us that giving back is something that must be continuous and with that we’ve decided to continue the project on a monthly basis. The work has just begun.”

Donations were collected before and during the event, with volunteers, such as members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Kappa Beta Chapter, distributing the items.

“I would have to say that it was really a sight to see. I’m glad I could be a part of making people smile. The surprise donations just kept coming. Thank you DJ King and Eric Brinson for making this happen,” said Perkins.

Individual stations were set up with shoes, clothes, hygiene products and baby items. As men and women entered around 9:30 a.m., they were greeted with a friendly face and handed hot tea to warm their bodies.

“I’m excited for the next one, I (am) sure we will have an even bigger turnout,” added Perkins.

Daria Joy Anthony, a volunteer, said, “It’s always an amazing feeling giving back and being a part of something bigger than myself. The second annual Hats and Hot Tea was a success, and I’m happy I got the chance to be involved.”

A hot meal of spaghetti, salad and bread from Olive Garden was donated for the majority of the men and women who showed up to receive clothing and food. Canned goods and other non-perishable food items were given away as they left the facility.

“The event was great. We were able to assist over a hundred people with clothing and food items and will continue our efforts monthly,” said Holcombe. “We hope to install new programs monthly as well to further assist those in need.”

One of the participants wanted to showcase his talents and did a comedy impersonation of the late comedian, Bernie Mac. The volunteers appreciated the gesture, laughing along at his quick wit.

The next outreach will be Dec. 22 at 10 a.m. at 341 Madison Ave. To donate items or learn more about the project, contact Eric Brinson at 901.201.9554.

 (Paula Anderson is a freelance journalist. She can be reached at [email protected].)