16-year-old boy's nonprofit gives 900 toiletry bags to people experiencing homelessness in Chicago

Christian Piekos Image
Monday, December 25, 2023
Teen's nonprofit gives toiletries to those experiencing homelessness
Operation Young Santa, founded by 16-year-old Dereon Pyles, is giving toiletry bags to those experiencing homelessness for Christmas 2023.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Joined together in prayer, Operation Young Santa is on a mission to spread some early Christmas cheer.

"It's all about gratitude and being grateful for what you have," said Operation Young Santa Founder Dereon Pyles.

Dereon, 16, founded Operation Young Santa nine years ago as a way of giving back to those experiencing homelessness on Christmas.

"It's definitely heartwarming. I'm always excited to see it grow. I'm always excited to see people smile and realize Christmas isn't all about receiving, it's about giving," Dereon said.

His kindness is only spreading. The group is passing out 900 toiletry bags to men and women experiencing homelessness across the city. They started with 50 bags during the first year.

"It gives you hope. Going through hard times. I have no family. This time of the year is the most important time of the year for somebody being in your life," said Antoine Matthews, who is experiencing homelessness.

Antoine received one of the bags and is living a shelter on the West Side. The small act of kindness provided him with the most important gift this holiday season: love.

"These people here give me hope and help," Antoine said.

Keyonda Pyles is Dereon's mom.

"Every year, I'm floored by how much support and how dedicated he is to this," Keyonda said.

Keyonda said her son's determination to make a difference and to show a little compassion is something we should all strive for.

"It shows that there is some love left in humanity," Keyonda said. "As the mom of a 16-year-old Black boy that's doing this, I'm honored."

The season of giving is playing out, one bag a time.