Rucker started A Touch of Warmth five years ago, when she was 4, after cleaning out her closet with her mother, Stacey Spade, and coming across a blanket that she liked, but her mother wanted to give away.
“She said there are people that don’t have blankets,” Rucker said.
After that, Rucker decided to do more, and went to friends and family to collect blankets. On Thanksgiving morning in 2007, she dropped off 168 blankets at local homeless shelters.
“When I saw the smiles on their faces, I just wanted to keep doing that,” said Rucker, now a fourth-grader at Sanders Elementary School in Austell.
By 2011, the organization had become so large that it had to register as a 501(c) 3 non-profit with the Georgia Secretary of State. This allowed it to take tax deductible donations, opening A Touch of Warmth up to corporate sponsorships. And when they registered, Rucker was listed as chief executive officer.
The 501(c) 3 status also meant A Touch of Warmth would need its own board.
“We were so in over our heads,” said Claudia Phillips, Rucker’s aunt who is now treasurer on the five-member board. “When something comes from the dreams of a child, you don’t know how big it could be.”
But the agency was able to attract a sponsor in children’s apparel maker Carter’s and has distributed 3,000 blankets, mostly to homeless and cancer-stricken children in Georgia. It has also made deliveries to shelters in Tennessee, Florida and Kentucky.
A campaign to collect 500 blankets by Dec. 1 has already brought in 570 blankets. A Touch of Warmth will take either new blankets or monetary contributions to pay for the blankets.
Despite meeting its goal, the organization is still collecting, and will continue to after Saturday’s deadline.
“People think we’ll take them just in winter, but we also take them year-round,” Phillips said.
A few weeks after making a donation of blankets at a shelter in Rome, the shelter closed. Phillips said having blankets made a difference for a family with three kids that was left on the street, since they no longer had to fight for one comforter.
“You grow up with a blanket,” she said. “Sometimes you outgrow clothes and toys, but you have one favorite blanket.”
While Rucker said she leaves some of the paperwork and phone calls that her position requires to her mother and aunt, meeting with the people she helps is a key part of her job.
“To me, it feels really good to meet people that are in shelters, and they can have that little bit of comfort,” Rucker said. “Sometimes they seem surprised. I don’t usually cry when I see the kids in the shelter, but sometimes I do feel like crying, because it’s not fair that they do not have a house.”
And her smile is always able to cheer up those less fortunate than her.
“She actually interacts with the kids and plays with them,” Spade said.
A Touch of Warmth recently launched a website (www.atouchofwarmth.org) and also takes donation by phone at (770) 608-8163.
While she once wanted to be a doctor, Rucker now sees herself bringing A Touch of Warmth around the world when she grows up. While others have held fundraisers for other charities, she enjoys running her own.
“I don’t know if it’s harder or easier to do it with somebody else, but this is actually fun,” she said.