HALIFAX -- Cadets from the 29 Sydney Kiwanis squadron were busy on Sunday sorting through winter apparel soon to be bagged and placed on trees and power poles throughout the Sydney, Nova Scotia area. 

The resealable plastic bags contain toques, mittens, scarves and everything needed to keep warm.

“A lot of people around here don't have what everyone else has,” says cadet, Alyssa Walker. “They can't stay warm during these very cold times.”

The cadets were already on a mission earlier in the week – armed with outerwear.

In only a couple of days, some bags were already empty – indicative of the need for warm garments in the community.

While it’s a gesture the community welcomes, it’s also a learning experience for younger cadets.

“Some of them are new, and they are new to the whole community service with the cadets; it’s good to have them go out with us,” says cadet, Shawn Blanchard. “They really learn quickly what cadets is about, which is helping the community here. Honestly, they really enjoy it.”

The tradition was started by 12-year-old Ashleigh Hanna in 2014 and was adopted by her fellow cadets, who’ve continued paying it forward ever since.

“We've been doing it for five years,” says Major. Dodie Hanna. “There's been 2,300 plus items of warm winter clothing put out on telephone poles.”

Hanna is Ashleigh's mother, and she says it's powerful that her daughter's actions have impacted many in the community.

“When she was 12 she decided she didn't want Christmas gifts – she wanted to do something for people in need,” says Hannah. “We took her Christmas money, and we bought Ziploc bags and had donated items – we've been putting them out on telephone poles ever since.”

Hanna says the cadets wouldn't be able to put out so many care bags without the help of family, friends and people in the community – who have donated all of the items in the bags for free.

“That's hugely important,” says Hannah. “Everybody's closet has more extra clothing than they need, so this is a really good way to keep the cycle going.”

Meanwhile, the cadets say it’s a good reminder for everyone to pay it forward – exactly what their group is all about.

“A lot of kids around here our age probably do not take initiative to go out and do stuff like that,” says Blanchard. “So through the cadet program, kids really learn it’s important to be leaders and role models for the rest of the community.”