Four weeks ago, a group of fourth-year BBA entrepreneurship students — Harsh Thakkar, Charles Konopski, Kelly Saunders, and Amar Phull — started Students for Homeless, which has since raised close to $48,000 to help homeless people on the Lower Mainland.
The fundraiser was a project for an entrepreneurship practicum class, with a mandate to help the Vancouver downtown eastside homeless by making care packages to help stay warm and safe in winter.
“What we do, is we collect pledges of $15 and $25 and use those pledges to purchase supplies for care packages. The packages have socks, thermal blankets, a toque, gloves, first-aid supplies, a couple garbage bags, and a map of the homeless care facilities in Vancouver,” said Konopski, co-founder of Students for Homeless.
Pledges were collected over four weeks, and all of the supplies were purchased through a wholeseller. Members of the group also stood outside of Choices Market in White Rock to get the public involved through pledges.
“We tried to sell as many in person, and a lot of time people didn’t have a lot of cash on them, so we would direct them to our website, and sent them an email and a lot of people went home and donated through our website, which we were very happy about,” said Konopski.
The fundraiser had a target of raising enough funds for 200 packages. But with the help of personal and social networking, and an overwhelming positive response from peers and the general public, as well as a sponsorship from Coast Capital Savings, Students for Homeless had enough for 200 packages by the beginning of the third week, and ended their project with 244 packages to distribute to the homeless.
“We definitely got some really good reception from both our peers and the general public. A lot of people thought it was a really great idea. I guess a lot of issues with non-profits is that you donate your money and you don’t really know where it goes, whereas with this fundraiser, when you donate you are pledging a package for an individual,” said Konopski.
“This way people are able to help the homeless and make sure they get something to eat, and socks and things to stay warm. We had a lot of support.”
On Saturday, Nov. 13 the group distributed 200 packages on Vancouver’s downtown eastside. While the response from the public had been positive, the response from the homeless was the inspiration for the project.
“The best part is the way they responded when we gave them the packages,” said Harsh Thakkar. “They were just giving us blessings and were so happy. We were giving them to people who we saw didn’t have toques or dry socks, and they were getting soaked in the rain, and they were just really excited to receive the packages.”
With 44 packages left, which will be distributed in Surrey, the project has been deemed a monumental success.
“What learned is that as much as it is about making money, it is also about giving back to the community. And that’s what we learned the most. All we wanted back was the blessings and the happiness we saw in people’s faces, and that’s something we were really touched by,” said Thakkar.
For more information, check out www.Studentsforhomeless.org.