Homeless at Heart ("HAH") was started in Atlanta in 2015. HAH’s mission has always been to provide a great Valentine's Day for people who are homeless. We recycle old shoe boxes and use these and other types of containers to turn them into special packages for people who are homeless. In addition to the cards, the boxes typically include socks, water, toiletries, and non-perishable snacks.
The idea for this program originated with Charles Plyler, an 11 year old at the time, after he noticed a homeless mother and her children sitting on the street. He and his Dad had just attended an Atlanta Hawks basketball game and Charles told his Dad that he would like to make 5-10 boxes to give away for Valentine's Day that would be decorated and include a handwritten Valentine's Day card. His Dad encouraged him to get some friends to help him and make it bigger.
For our first drive, and with only 5-6 weeks to get organized, we set a goal of 200 boxes. Several schools participated in our first drive and we exceeded our goal by over 150 boxes. With an entire year to plan for the 2016 Valentine's Day campaign, we set a goal of 2,000 boxes. Over 10 schools participated and we collected about 3100 boxes, exceeding our goal again. We also received publicity in 2016 from Pebble Tossers, an organization in Atlanta that matches families looking for charitable service projects with charitable organizations looking for family volunteers. Through Pebble Tossers' efforts and other publicity in the Atlanta area, we also got great support from many families and other interested persons. Finally, we also got help fromMore Love Letters, an organization founded by Hannah Brencher; her followers write anonymous letters to people in need around the world and they orchestrated a special campaign for us at Christmastime and they sent us many handwritten Valentine Cards we used in our campaign.
For the 2017 Valentine's Day campaign, we plan to make 5,000 boxes for distribution in Atlanta. In addition to our work in Atlanta, we are partnering with a youth leadership group in Norman, Oklahoma, Lovework Leadership, and they are setting an ambitious goal to make 3,200 boxes for homeless children in their area. We are also reaching out to interested parties in Washington D.C. and Birmingham, Alabama to start campaigns in those cities.
Our campaigns are normally funded by the gifts of boxes and contents at the participating schools and organizations, However, we do solicit and need monetary contributions to make other boxes. We have partnered with Weststride Running Store in Atlanta and many of their customers donate boxes for us to fill. Their customers have already donated over 500 boxes since our last campaign. It costs us about $5 to fill each of the boxes with the contents we want to include.