"I make time for this because it's important to me. And if people truly cared, they would make time too," Makenna Breading-Goodrich tells PEOPLE

By Rose Minutaglio
January 01, 2016 09:15 AM
Jennifer Breading-Goodrich

Makenna Breading-Goodrich, 12, is making all the difference with her Radio Flyer wagon.

For the past four years, the seventh grader has walked around Surprise, Arizona, neighborhoods with her iconic red wagon, collecting thousands of jackets for the state’s homeless population.

Her organization, Makenna’s Coats for a Cause, works hard to ensure that Arizona’s less fortunate stay warm during the winter season.

“It gets really cold around here at night, like 30 degrees, and I want to make sure homeless people aren’t walking around without jackets or blankets at night!” Makenna tells PEOPLE. “I just want people to know someone cares about them.”

The Canyon Ridge Elementary student dropped off around 1,000 items at Phoenix Rescue Mission, a shelter that provides food, shelter and recovery services for the homeless, on December 12.

Makenna sorting coats
Jennifer Breading-Goodrich

“When I get a thank you, it’s the best feeling,” the club-softball player says. “It’s usually people who have nothing and when you show them you care, it can mean a lot.”

Makenna has her coat collection process down to a science.

Makenna donated over 1,000 items on December 12
Jennifer Breading-Goodrich

In late November, she walks around her town handing out fliers to let community members know her mission and her collection goal. Two weeks later, she takes her red wagon and goes door-to-door asking for jacket donations.

She then sorts all the jackets into kids and adults and separates the hoodies and sweaters.

“Most people say, ‘I would do stuff like you do if I had more time,’ ” says Makenna. “But I make time for this because it’s important to me. And if people truly cared, they would make time too.”

The seventh grader says her passion project is rooted in empathy.

“If I was out there, I would want someone to care for me,” says Makenna. “We should care about those that are in need, like they would do for us if we were in need.”

Makenna taking coats to Arizona homeless shelter
Jennifer Breading-Goodrich

Makenna’s mother, Jennifer Breading-Goodrich, says her daughter came up with the idea on her own.

“We’re so happy with the person she is becoming,” Breading-Goodrich tells PEOPLE. “She’s so selfless for being 12! We are beyond blessed.”

The proud mother adds that her daughter feels it is important to “leave a positive footprint,” wherever you go.

“We struggle with the fact that we need to look up and see our surroundings,” says Breading-Goodrich. “Makenna’s generation understands loving each other and giving back, though. Things are changing.”

Makenna Breading-Goodrich
Jennifer Breading-Goodrich

Makenna hopes her organization will inspire others around the country to give back – even if it’s just a little bit.

“Something small can make a big difference,” says Makenna. “I want this to spread. A little kindness can inspire others!”