N.S. boy's idea to help others after his dad's death leads to national campaign

·3 min read
Matthew Gordon, 14, came up with the idea after the death of his father in 2017. The teenager says he likes talking with the men who receive the used clothing to see the impact the gesture has on their lives.  (Carolyn Ray/CBC - image credit)
Matthew Gordon, 14, came up with the idea after the death of his father in 2017. The teenager says he likes talking with the men who receive the used clothing to see the impact the gesture has on their lives. (Carolyn Ray/CBC - image credit)

When the pandemic began, Matthew Gordon thought it might mean the end of his efforts to gather and donate men's clothing.

Not only is it continuing, but the 14–year–old from Tantallon, N.S., is set to inspire a national effort to help men in need.

"Once the cases started going down, we were like, 'Oh, we can still do this,'" he said. "We got so many clothes."

The family's trailer is now stuffed with second-hand clothing once again that Matthew and his mother, Lorna, will deliver to the Salvation Army in Halifax on Friday morning.

It's something they've done several times since Matthew's father, Ken, was killed in a highway traffic accident in 2017.

In the weeks following his dad's death, Matthew asked his mother if they could donate clothing to the men staying at the Salvation Army's shelter.

The organization had helped Ken Gordon with his alcohol addiction years earlier. The family decided to ask for more donations, and strangers started showing up at the house with bags of clothing to contribute.

Submitted by Lorna Gordon
Submitted by Lorna Gordon

Years later, those donations keep coming.

Lorna Gordon said at one point last year, they received 15 barely used winter jackets from a building that decided to make a group contribution.

"That day we were able to outfit five men, and the other jackets were going to be spoken for by the end of the day," she said.

When they began their effort, she said her son just wanted to make sure the clothes went somewhere. Now he wants to meet the men who will wear the clothing.

"The genuineness of them accepting [the clothes], and knowing that they needed it and we're making that difference to help them was an amazing feeling," she said.

Matthew agrees.

The modest, soft-spoken teenager said he knows his dad would be proud.

"You get to see people's happiness come out and you get joy from it. You see how you can change other people's lives," he said.

Carolyn Ray/CBC
Carolyn Ray/CBC

When CBC News first told his story, the report caught the eye of Keith Reardon, a senior vice-president of CN in Ontario. He called Matthew offering to help, and over the years, the two have formed a friendship.

Reardon had pledged to collect donations from staff across the country, but the pandemic temporarily put the brakes on that plan.

Instead, CN will give Matthew a cheque Friday from the employees' and pensioners' community fund to donate to the charity. They are going to surprise the teen with the amount.

"His compassion is inspiring, not only for us but for this whole community that he represents so well," said Reardon.

Next year, their big plans are set to resume. CN is offering to collect donations from British Columbia to Nova Scotia, dropping them off at various shelters along the way.

It's a big deal for the Salvation Army, which describes Matthew's idea and commitment as a legacy of generosity.

"It's commendable to think that he stuck with it through all these years," said Capt. Jamie Locke.

Locke said there are times when the family donates more clothing than the shelter needs, so the extras are sent to other Salvation Army locations in the province.

Matthew said he is amazed at how his little idea became a big deal.

"People have so much joy for clothing because they don't have any," he said. "They just have so much joy."

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