FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — They may look like ordinary street signs from afar, but they’re actually draped with a variety of scarves that are free to anyone who can’t afford to purchase their own.
The person behind the scarves is Lenny Nicolan, who manages the Saint Vincent Depaul thrift store in Fall River.
Lenny said he’s noticed scarves are in high demand this year.
“Last year, I think I had at least 1,000 scarves,” Lenny recalled. “Now, I don’t think I have 100 left.”
The 86-year-old makes time to wrap several scarves around three street sign poles throughout Fall River, all of which have been donated to his thrift shop.
He said it’s part of a six-year tradition started by his daughter Kim Nicolan and his late son Michael Nicolan, who lost his life to a brain tumor in 2017.
Lenny said his son’s life revolved around two things: his family and helping people in need.
He said working side-by-side with his son at the thrift store was a gift.
“When I walk in that store on Pleasant Street, there are two desks,” Lenny said. “He occupied one and I occupied the other.”
“He would light up the room,” he continued. “There were times I would say to myself ‘I wish I were like him.'”
On each pole, Lenny and Kim have placed a photo of Michael, the man who started it all, above the scarves.
“It keeps the memory of my brother alive, and that is so important to both of us,” Kim said.
Kim said she’s proud of her father for continuing the tradition with her, adding that giving out the free scarves is gratifying.
“It makes them feel special,” Kim said. “It puts a smile on their face. It makes them feel like someone knitted a scarf for them.”
“It’s free, they don’t have to go and ask for anything, and it gives them a sense of being thought of,” she continued. “They’re not the forgotten people.”
Kim said so many people are living on the margins and often feel forgotten, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic.
She said nowadays, there are many families who aren’t homeless, but still don’t have the money to purchase one scarf, let alone scarves for the entire family.
“The idea has touched people around the world,” Kim said. “We actually have a woman from California, she’s from England, and she sends me a box every other week … She’s hand-knitted these scarves and throughout the summer and winter, and we’ve easily got over 200 scarves.”
It is said that kind-hearted people always put their heart and soul into everything they do. Those are words Lenny lives by every single day.
“As long as the guy upstairs, way upstairs, lets me have my strength and energy, I intend to do that for the rest of my life,” he said.
Anyone who would like to donate scarf can do so by emailing Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org.