As winter storm spreads snow, Pittsfield woman spreads love with free hats, mittens

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PITTSFIELD — While snow blanketed the city, Karla Neff tacked plastic bags with new gloves and hats to downtown telephone poles, lamp posts and anything else sturdy enough to hold them.

"I came from nothing," she said. Now she wants to show her children — and others — what it looks like to be kind to those less fortunate.

She calls herself and her daughter "storm fairies." She said people seem to struggle to understand why she, who works as a CNA, would spend her own money on provisions to fill 100-plus bags, but she said they're thinking too hard about it.

"If people can spread hate for no reason, I can spread love for no reason," she said.

Neff said she started doing it last year, taking up the mantle from Cara Petricca Carnevale, who wasn't able to give out hats and mittens while she helped her son, Nick Carnevale, recover from his gunshot wounds. Neff put her own little spin on the delivery method, she said.

"'You'll know what to do,' she said," Neff recalled of her conversation with Carnevale. "And that's when I figured, I'll just hang 'em everywhere."

She said she also recently started giving away stuffed animals and toys for children in need on Facebook under the name "Karla Kares."

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Neff said she stocks up slowly over the course of a week, placing the newly purchased hats and gloves in clear plastic bags with hand-written notes full of hearts and exclamation points.

"Keep warm!" read one she attached to a small tree on North Street. "Stay warm in the storm."

"I'm just trying to show people kindness," she said. "Even a Dollar Tree hat will just make someone's day who doesn't have it."

Neff said she's focusing her efforts on North Street, Linden Street and Tyler Street. She also brought some to the city's bus station and housing projects, she said.

She said she visited the areas where she dropped off bags to find most had been taken.

"I didn't realize the need was so great," she said. "When we went back and almost all of them were gone, I was like, 'Oh, that's great,' but at the same time what does that mean?"

Amanda Drane can be contacted at, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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