Even now, after a year of COVID, people are still suffering. When I came across the program of creating a community drive in Empower And Help, I decided that this was my chance to help make a difference. A small change can make a big difference, one just has to take a step forward! Going through the whole process made me thankful for the life I have. The feeling of making others happy made me even happier.
To ensure a strong beginning for my drive, I researched shelters near me that took food donations. I believe food is a basic necessity and that everyone needs to have access to it. I managed to free ten days in my summer for this drive.
Now I had a cause to work for but I wasn’t sure where to place the box for donations.
After a few days of brainstorming with my parents, we came up with the thought of placing it near the mailboxes. To make sure that this was okay with the rest of the neighborhood, we asked the HOA (Homeowners Association). They said that this wasn’t an ideal spot as kids or animals could get to the contents of the box. We zeroed in on the spot just near our front door where we could monitor it better and also help us to have a contactless drive for the incoming donations.
On the Community Shelter of Union County’s website, I found their list of needed items but to double-check, I called them and they conveyed to me their most dire needs at that moment. The next step was to design a flyer. A flyer is a way to promote your drive. Using the app Adobe Fresco, I designed a poster that stated the cause I was advocating for and paid attention to the needs of the people in the shelter. A flyer should be concise to get people’s attention. After a run-through of the flyer by the Empower And Help leaders, I posted it on Facebook. This lets people know about the drive and what to donate. To promote, even more, I had my mom put in the flyer in the neighborhood group chat. Two days into the campaign and I already had a huge donation coming our way for the shelter. Going further, we hosted a neighborhood sale and I sold ice cream and stickers. I raised about $20 and my brother wanted to include his money too for the cause, which summed up to $30 towards the drive. Some people weren’t able to donate food to my drive but they did donate money for the community shelter. This made me realize that I had created substantial awareness for the shelter itself. As days went by for the drive more and more donations poured in. By the end of the drive, I had exceeded my goal of two to three boxes, which made me feel excited about the drop-off.
I made sure to thank everyone in person or through a letter who donated any amount of food small or big for which I was extremely grateful. Donating the collected food items to the shelter and thinking of the people who would eat and enjoy this made me feel so happy and cheerful. Through every step of the drive, my family and Empower And Help supported me. During this amazing experience, I learned a few tips that I would use if I were to do this again and that may help you in your future drives.
Organize. – Organize the location, the cause, the promotions, before the drive to ensure having a strong drive in general. Develop a time frame that gives enough time for people to donate. Make sure that your drives are somewhat contactless owing to COVID and related precautions are taken.
Be patient. – Drives and fundraisers can take time, take a deep breath and wait. Don’t rush through it, enjoy each moment and think about how every single thing which is added to the donation would put a smile on someone’s face who is in need. Wait for a successful drive.
Choose well– Pick items that you feel excited to collect or that you have an interest in. If you want people from other places to donate, a fundraiser is also an option. Make sure that the cause that you picked needs the items that you are donating.
Have fun while doing the drive. Doing any community service requires passion. Enjoying each step can make you happy while doing something that changes the way others’ lives make a positive impact.
All throughout these ten days, I have learned ways to help make my community a better place by doing something that makes a difference. Now that everyone in my community has knowledge about this shelter, some are looking for ways to volunteer or donate. In the future, I would do this again in a heartbeat. I would have to say that promoting the drive itself and creating awareness about the cause is difficult especially with a worldwide pandemic going on. It felt amazing changing someone’s life through my efforts. I will be looking forward to any other volunteering opportunities that come my way, whether it’s at Empower And Help or somewhere else. I am glad I could make an impact while being a part of this activity. I am sure everyone would be able to feel this sense of accomplishment and happiness while serving others. Some problems are bigger than us and everyone contributing to a certain cause can shave these problems away little by little. Keep looking for ways to help your community, it could be big or small.
[By Veeksha Patlolla, is Empower And Help Student Ambassador 2021 from North Carolina]