PEPPERELL -- When 10-year-old Brooke Kelley, a fifth-grader at Nissitissit Middle School, told her mom Angela that in lieu of birthday presents, she wanted pet food to donate to the Humane Society of Greater Nashua, Angela did not believe her.
"I said 'Come on, get real. You know when you get that all wrapped up, you're not going to be happy,'" said Angela. "So I didn't do it."
But Brooke persisted, insisting that for Christmas, she be given dog food, cat food, and pet toys to donate to homeless animals.
"I had always liked animals, and I just decided to do it," said the soft-spoken Brooke, who said as an adult she hopes to volunteer her time at the ASPCA and work with orphaned pit bulls.
Angela said the idea to collect the items to donate was completely her daughter's.
"We had gone to the Humane Society before and seen the animals. They told us it cost quite a bit of money per day to run a shelter, and it was all done by donations, and she just said she wanted to help," said Angela.
But the dogs and cats won't be the only recipients of Brooke's generosity this holiday season. Brooke has also decided to independently collect nonperishable food items to donate to the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter. One week after beginning the food collection, Brooke has already accumulated about 125 food items to donate.
"I'm amazed at how far it's gone already," said Angela.
The spirit of giving first struck Brooke about a year and a half
"And she just said, 'I want to donate it to the shelter,'" said Angela.
"They need stuff," Brooke said. "They need to have food and coats and dog toys and dog food."
Angela has also hoped to instill in Brooke a sense of charity; the two have been volunteering time for the past two Thanksgivings serving food at the shelter and soup kitchen.
"No matter how bad things can get, there's always somebody out there that it could be worse for them," said Angela. "A little act of kindness can go a long way. You really don't know how far it's going to go with someone; it can really change their life."
They also donated old coats from their own closets the day after Hurricane Sandy.
"I thought it wouldn't be a good day to drive, but Brooke said 'They're really going to need them today,'" said Angela.
The Kelleys haven't advertised their collection; instead, Brooke has a simple, yet highly effective process for receiving donations.
"When I just see someone I know, I'd ask them if next time they see me, whatever they wanted to donate, it they'd give it to me," said Brooke.
Brooke said she has no specific goals for how much she hopes to collect.
"Just however much I can," she said.
The Kelleys plan to make the initial food donation following Thanksgiving.
"Before Thanksgiving, a lot of people donate food, so a lot of the shelters have an abundance," said Angela. "But after Thanksgiving, when they've given out all of the food, is when they need more."
Still, there's no time limit.
"They need food all year long, so whatever we can do to help," said Angela. "We just want to thank everyone who has donated so far."
The two even said they would be willing to go pick up the donations from people to make it even easier.
Brooke, who was just awarded a certificate for kindness at school, said it made her feel good to be able to help people and animals in need.
"There are a lot of people that need stuff, and I have a lot of stuff," said Brooke.