Tristan and Emerson Rankin (Photo by Caleb Robertson/Our York Media)

Tristan and Emerson Rankin: Spreading warmth

At only 10 and 8 years old, brothers Tristan and Emerson are doing what they can to help York’s homeless, one jacket at a time.

Written by: Anthony Machcinski
Tristan and Emerson Rankin (Photo by Caleb Robertson/Our York Media)

Tristan Rankin was 6 years old when his mother showed him a video about a homeless teenager in the cold.

In the film, the boy sits on the sidewalk during a zero-degree day in New York City with no jacket as hundreds of people pass him by. Finally, another homeless man comes over and gives the man his coat.

“Both homeless men barely had anything,” Tristan, now 10, says. “I just wanted to be there at that moment and give him my coat.”

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The video inspired Tristan to start Coats of Friendship – a nonprofit aimed at collecting winter clothing for homeless people in York.

They distribute the clothing through organizations and shelters but also give out jackets on their own or leave them in high-traffic areas like parks throughout the city.

I keep doing it every year because I know there’s someone in York County who always needs a coat.

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Tristan Rankin

During the program’s first year in 2014, Tristan and the group collected 75 coats. This season, they’ve collected more than 3,000.

“It all just feels like a fun thing for us now,” Emerson, Tristan’s 8-year-old brother, says. “We’re doing this every year because it’s a good idea and everyone loves it.”

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Tristan and Emerson’s mother, Tracee, still can’t believe how big the group has gotten in the past four years. The children – Tristan, Emerson and a group of friends – run the group; she just drives them and makes sure they stay safe.

“I don’t think people realize that everything with this is totally grassroots,” Tracee says. “The kids do it because they love it.”

Every year, Tracee asks Tristan if he wants to keep doing it, and every year, he responds by increasing the number of jackets to collect.

“I don’t plan on stopping,” Tristan says. “I keep doing it every year because I know there’s someone in York County who always needs a coat.”

Click here to learn more about Coats of Friendship

Give where you live on May 3, 2019, at GiveLocalYork.org

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