Virginia Beach, Va. - It's tough for anyone to be out during extremely low temperatures but this bitter cold is particularly harsh on the homeless. One Virginia Beach woman has been a crusader for helping those battling the elements.
She started her charity Blankets For The Homeless as a teenager and three years later, it's still going strong.
Mariah Smith stays busy sharing her passion and collecting donated items. She recently picked up 100 hotel-quality blankets from the Atrium Resort at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.
Mariah is very appreciative.
"We just feel so blessed to be a part of this and feel so grateful and thankful."
Mike Jones with the Atrium Resort says this is the second year his business has donated blankets to Mariah's charity after hearing her speak at a meeting of the Virginia Beach Hotel Motel Association.
"And she's doing all this great work in the community and it was just a no-brainer--- hey we need to get involved and help her, and her story was very inspiring," says Jones.
It's a story NewsChannel 3 has shared over the years including the first time Mariah made news when she was abandoned as a baby on the steps of a Norfolk hospital 20 years ago. She was since adopted and then at the age of 17 launched a crusade to help the homeless.
Mariah is now 20 and you'll still find her and her mom regularly at their Virginia Beach home rolling and tying blankets to be handed out to the homeless, desperately fighting the cold in these frigid temperatures.
This blast of freezing weather has Mariah fighting back tears when talking about the homeless.
"I just imagine what they're going through on a daily basis and this is reality for them. They're out here in the cold, the rain the storms. They're out here in everything and it breaks my heart," says Mariah.
For her that means four to five nights a week passing out blankets and clothes to the homeless. "I know this is really important, and I know this is helping them in some way and honestly, I couldn't do this without the support of the community, my mom and I honestly do feel God gives me the strength on a daily basis."
Her story did recently catch the attention of an unlikely national publication, the National Enquirer. Mariah was featured in the December 30th issue in a story titled Christmas Angel.
She now does her charity work full time taking a break from her college studies at TCC following a bad car accident last summer per doctor's orders.
"And they have not cleared me to go back to school until next year because of my significant concussion." Her dream is to resume studies, but at Regent University.
"It's faith based and that means a lot to me, and they're also well-known for helping the community and that also means a lot to me. It would be an honor to go there," says Mariah.
For all that she is doing in the community, NewsChannel 3 presented her with a $100 Visa gift card from our community partner Southern Bank.
For information on how you help Mariah take action, visit Blankets For the Homelesss on Facebook