Florence Wisniewski, of Chicago, Illinois, jumped into action last week when she learned the reason she kept hearing her name on the news

By Char Adams
September 20, 2018 03:33 PM
Courtesy Tricia Wisniewski

Florence Wisniewski, a 4-year-old in Chicago, Illinois, didn’t understand quite why she kept hearing her name on the news last week. But when her parents explained the devastation of Hurricane Florence, which wreaked havoc on the Carolinas, the young girl was eager to help.

“I think it’s right to do. It’s the right thing to do to help people,” Florence tells PEOPLE. “I’d want help if I was stuck in a hurricane.”

Florence’s mother, Tricia Wisniewski, says she showed her daughter photos of the destruction, reminding the little girl that it’s important “to help people who aren’t as lucky as us.” The pre-schooler agreed, saying, “people need toiletries and diapers and pacifiers. They need formula and water and baby food.”

So, the mother-daughter duo put their heads together, and decided that they would collect supplies for those impacted by the hurricane — which was eventually downgraded to a tropical depression.

“We put a little bucket on our front porch with a poster,” Tricia says. “I asked her teacher if we could put a collection box in her classroom … and we posted it on Facebook. Within a couple hours, it was shared to so many community groups on the north side of Chicago. Thousands of people had seen it in their news feed!”

Courtesy Tricia Wisniewski

In the photo, Florence stood smiling as she held a poster that illustrated the storm’s path, and featured four cutouts of her face. Officials with the Gladstone Park Advisory Council shared the image on their Facebook page, and it has been shared more than 70 times.

Florence’s good deed has filled headlines and people from all over the area have brought supplies to her donation boxes at her home and her school. Tricia says they have enough supplies — with everything from pet food to diapers — to fill a small truck. The family plans to connect with charities to distribute the supplies.

“It started as a lesson to teach out kids to help people,” Tricia tells PEOPLE. Her husband, Paul Wisniewski, adds of Florence: “She’s at the age where we can start to teach her about these things, and we wanted to start local. We’re really surprised at the response.”

Courtesy Tricia Wisniewski

Florence helps collect and sort through the supplies. And the little girl says she’s met so many people named Florence as a result of her good deed.

“People are good-hearted and want to help and that’s amazing. We’re all just in this together,” says Tricia. “Everyone has the same needs and wants and deserves the same thing. If this little 4-year-old girl could get this kind of response … it’s important to help everybody out.”

The slow-moving storm began at sea as a Category 4 hurricane, and made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane on Friday. Within days, it was downgraded to a tropical depression before dissipating. Nearly 40 people have died as a result of Hurricane Florence, latest numbers from CBS News reveal. Nearly 343,000 people are still without power in North Carolina.