Last weekend was an AMAZING gathering for 1st Saturdays/ Help The Homeless! We had 85 volunteers, tons of donations, a wedding, and my mom even participated!
Here is a draft of the narrative we are submitting for 1stSaturday’s Non-profit status. Feedback welcome!
NARRATIVE: 1st Saturdays
On the 1st Saturday of February 2010, two high school classmates got together on a whim to provide clothing and toiletries to San Diego homeless. They had reunited at their 20 year High School reunion and, despite their vastly different religious backgrounds, realized that their beliefs overlapped in the area of service, community, & compassion.
They shared the rewarding experience via online social networks and quickly had dozens of friends and neighbors lining up to help volunteer. The group called itself “1st Saturdays” and was formed for exclusively charitable and educational purposes.
The goal of 1st Saturdays is to provide a non-religious service opportunity for the San Diego community while providing clothing, toiletries and other necessities to the local homeless population. Each monthly outing consists of 30-80 volunteers who first collect and organize clothing donations, create toiletry care packs, and then carpool to downtown San Diego locations where the need is greatest. Men’s and Women’s clothing is collected from the community all month. In recent months 1st Saturdays has met and organized donations by gender & clothing type at the downtown Prosperity Hive (www.prosperity-hive.com) before heading out into the streets. A row of folding tables is set up in parking lots or on the sidewalk so that the clothing is presented like a mobile “street boutique.” The goal is to create a dignified “shopping” experience and provide San Diego homeless with items they need.
The care packs consist of new toiletries, hygiene items like soap, toothpaste, Band-Aids, clean socks, and more. Most items are purchased in bulk from hotel supply stores and then assembled into care-packs by volunteers. Quantities of items provided vary based on what volunteers are able to purchase, but generally between 100 and 300 packs a month are distributed. Care packs are distributed alongside the clothing tables, or handed out via “drive-bys” to less mobile individuals.
According to the Regional Task Force on The Homeless for San Diego County, current numbers estimate that more 8500 people are Homeless in San Diego (http://www.rtfhsd.org). The needs among this group for warm clothes, basic hygiene products, and a friendly ear are massive. However, even small efforts have big impact among those helped…and those helping.
In addition to the physical transfer of donated goods, the goal of 1st Saturdays is to break down the cultural walls between economically distant local communities. The group provides outreach opportunities for San Diegans to meet, interact, and support their homeless brothers and sisters. Much care is taken to create an uplifting and community-building experience for both volunteers and homeless. Conversation, smiles, and words of connection are encouraged. While it is certainly nice to feed someone for a day, and even better to treat that person with dignity, it is the changes that happen in our volunteers that are perhaps the most significant. The food, clothes, and care-packs are in many ways simply the excuse we use to allow disparate San Diego communities to spend time together and be reminded of our connection as a human family. When someone starts to see themselves as “a person who helps,” it can be a transformative and world changing shift. We consider conversations as important as donations & hope to change the way volunteers see themselves in relation to the disadvantaged, and society.
What began as a 1-time whim has become a thriving monthly tradition entering its 3rd year. The number of volunteers continues to increase, and the organization is ready to move to the next level. With non-profit status, 1st Saturdays would seek additional funding through grants and additional donors. The organization hopes that it can grow in the number of volunteers we can support, homeless we can help, and goods we can distribute. By doing so we can reduce the burden on existing government programs while helping needy individuals and educating volunteers.
OB Rag Article: “Socks for the Homeless” (http://obrag.org/?p=25663)
San Diego Citybeat Article: “Online Intimacy.” (http://www.sdcitybeat.com/sandiego/article-8644-online-intimacy.html)
Photos from Recent Outings.
Videos from Recent Outings. (online at www.1stsaturdays.org.)
Printout of recent “Facebook Event” for 1stSaturdays. (http://www.facebook.com/events/182532865179175/)
Facebook Organizing Page (online: http://www.Facebook.com/HelpTheHomeless.)