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Welcome to GiftCards4Change.org
My name is Andrew, and I started GiftCards4Change as a charitable organization to help people in my local community. My story begins as a sophomore at Allen High School when I decided to transfer into a collegiate high school program at Richland College in Dallas. Prior to graduating with my combined high school and associates degree (Thank you, Richland!), I had to complete a senior capstone project that reflected on the community service work I had done for the two years, and reflect on the work and the experiences it created for me as a student. I credit much of my idea for GiftCards4Change to Richland College’s community service and outreach initiatives.
The Capstone Challenge: "Create a way to use your talents to give back to your local community"
This idea of this simple challenge haunted me for most of the two years I was at Richland. I spent the first year working mostly in my local community without a clue of what to do, and what my talent would be. I gave my time to many causes, I provided what little money I had to those in need, but I never found my talent or true calling for what my impact would be.
In my time engaging my own community I became very aware that there was so much need, so many desperate faces, so much injustice, how could I (1 person) choose? Months later, I would come to realize that I could have broad impact and would choose to use my talents to support people in a way where all would benefit. Loaded with idealism and great purpose I set out to make anything possible, but how would I do it was the question. I struggled to find something that was useful and that rose to the magnitude of helping everyone.
I was given a great deal of advice from many different people throughout my community and two things would resonate with me. I was told to focus and that I needed a singular vision or group to dedicate my efforts towards. The second was that if I was offering a product or service it should be so simplistic people would say "why didn’t I think of that". With these ideas in mind I continued my journey.
The idea, product, or service needs to be simple and elegant. People need to hear your idea and say… OMG, that’s so simple, why didn’t I think of that?
If you truly want to help people you have to be quiet, listen first, and engage the problem with an open mind.
This concept was a lot to grasp at 17. How much impact I could make. What idea could I have that a thousand other people haven’t done already? My head was swirling between some idea of originality, and addressing my communities greatest challenges with elegance. It was sometime after Christmas when the power of that simple idea hit me. It was early January and I was at the mall spending the last of my Christmas money from my grandmother and I realized that I was holding a wallet full of gift cards that all had some small balance left on them. A Visa this, a Starbucks that, BestBuy, you get the idea.
That was the moment I had been waiting for, searching for, simple and elegant. I would find a way to serve my community by collecting peoples remaining balance gift cards and put those dollars to use in my community. I would eventually start a nonprofit 501(c)3 dedicated to capturing all those low remaining balances on gift cards to help impact local communities and change lives across the USA, and I would call the NPO GiftCards4Change. The idea became clearly defined and continued to resonate "We would use what is commonly under-valued to help the under-served".
However, for now, let's get back to school. With a clear sense of direction and purpose, it was time to get to work. I researched the topic, crunched the data, and inhaled the potential of what this could mean in my own community. Now the question was how far I could reach with this idea, what impact could I have. I dreamed of a worldwide impact movement, and honestly still have that dream. I shared my idea with everyone, so much so that people began to avoid me. It was then that I realized that very few people will care about your cause and the impact you can make unless you make it simple and overwhelming purposeful. I eventually found people who would help me, and believe in my purpose. They helped me develop my ideas and they brought their own individual talents. Suddenly our potential became greater and we were unified by common purpose and cause. It was that experience and belief that others had in me that became the catalyst for this capstone to become the NPO it is today.
This nonprofit work is no joke! It's difficult to create a grass roots local community needs based model of giving, and convince people that their small balance gift cards can save lives. Furthermore, as an organization we were challenged by community leaders to fully adopt a singular cause model, but we did not see it that way. We recognized many causes, their importance and we support many of them with a need based model that is dialed directly into the local community. Since GiftCards4Change accepts such potentially small balances we needed to become laser focused on need. We believe that in a cause model you money may be used to put toys under the tree for children who are in need. Nothing wrong with that! That’s a great cause to support but in a model less focused on cause and much more devoted to need we may come to realize that the cause has a name, it is Samantha, and even though she loves toys very much what she really needed was a new coat for the winter, and of course that new barbie doll. It is that need based model that we want to put in front of people. We want people to see Samantha, to become aware of her needs and not just the toys. Our economic model does not afford us the luxury of becoming subordinate to a cause and we remain dedicated stuarts of putting resources directly in the hands of those in need.
So, that’s my story of how I found my calling for creating change and giving back to my community. The question you must ask yourself now is how will you serve?
We don’t need to be original, but we are different. At GiftCards4Change we have 4 core principles that guide what we are today.
We facilitate change by monetizing what is under-valued and putting it to work for the under-served.
We believe in expanding charitable resources with gift cards.
We believe in human potential and that ordinary acts of kindness are carried out by extraordinary people.
We believe in a local community needs based charity model that reduces economic and administrative barriers, and applies maximum donation values directly to the people.
At GiftCards4Change, we identify and invest directly in the needs of the community and its people. We believe this model maximizes donor value and the charitable impact your small donations can create in the community.
If there is a take away moment from this…What would I like someone to get from my story?
Most of the greatest challenges in the world happen right under our noses because we are not paying attention. It’s the idea of awareness that is most important. When we start to pay attention and are mindful of helping others, we step outside ourselves, and that’s the spark that leads to meaningful change in the world.
I believe that everyone has talents and that they can use them to fix any size problem. That’s the beauty of human potential, you don’t have to be like me and do what I do, but you should certainly be exactly who you are, and do what you are meant to do, and while you’re on that journey you should give back, help others, and keep mindful of the problems that your talents can help solve.
Founder | GiftCards4Change.org Inc.