John Allen, holiday cheer spreader, Washington, D.C.
YouCaring Fundraiser: Sweaters and Sustenance
Mission: To seize the day and make the lives of others extraordinary by bringing warmth to the homeless.
John Allen and his three younger siblings learned a valuable lesson from their father that they still embody to this day—compassion. After the unfortunate passing of their father in 2003, they sought to find a way to both honor him and give back to those in need. In 2004, they launched Sweaters and Sustenance, which was a way to provide warmth to those in their community who needed it most. Their father had a way of making everyone feel warm inside so every holiday season John and his family strive to give others that same warmth.
They have succeeded in serving their community for the past 11 years and hand out more than just coats. With the help of their community and their crowdfunding initiatives, they began giving out winter clothes and prepared meals. In 2014, they kicked it up another notch by raising funds to create gift baskets for John’s students at the KIPP Learning Center.
John offered some insight into his success and discussed his take on Millennial giving with us.
As a Millennial, how do you think the digital age has brought about new ways to give back?
I think the digital age has allowed for more immediate ways to give back. With YouCaring, friends and acquaintances alike are able to be immediately give to my fundraiser with the touch of a button. Before, I would have to email around or call and that would lead to either emails getting lost in inboxes or finding it hard to reach people. The digital age allows content to stay constant and messages to constantly stream when campaigned properly.
As a Millennial, what causes are you particularly moved by?
I am an old soul and I am a big believer in helping the underdog. I am moved by causes that work to alleviate poverty and help bring more quality educational opportunities to low-income families and their children. I believe that everyone is equal and that skin color, socioeconomic status or zip code should not separate us. Everyone deserves to have a shot at an incredible life and everyone needs a little help in getting there.
Why did you pick YouCaring to host your fundraiser? How do you think crowdfunding has aided your cause?
Crowdfunding allows more than just friends and family to become involved in our mission, which tends to be something that people see as larger than themselves. It’s the idea that by donating a small bit of money or time, you are making a true difference in another’s life. That message can spread, and crowdfunding has allowed Sweaters and Sustenance to have a greater reach over the last few years.
You and your family have been providing warmth for the homeless in Washington, D.C., by bringing them winter clothes and meals during the holiday season for the past 11 years. What motivated you to start Sweaters and Sustenance?
Yes, it’s been over 10 years! Unreal. To be honest, I strongly suggest those who have not heard about Sweaters and Sustenance to watch the video of how it all started on our website www.sweatersandsustenance.com.
Why did you decide to also create gift baskets last year for the student that you teach at the KIPP Learning Center?
A few of the students I teach at the KIPP Learning Center told me that the only thing they wanted for Christmas was a family and clothes. I realized how little they had, and I wanted to make their Christmas personal and warm. From that thought came the collaboration of ideas among my Sweaters and Sustenance team, and together we assembled baskets of clothes with different girls and boys items that they could enjoy with friends (footballs, nail polish, etc.). This could not have been possible without the help of Alyssa Silkwood and Claudia Smith.
What do you think have been the keys to your success?
The key to the success of Sweaters and Sustenance has been the relentless support from the few friends who have helped me over the years and, of course, my family. Without the belief that together, we can help make the lives of others extraordinary, we would not be able to do what we do every year. The more people we involve in this effort, the more lives we will be able to help change.
What have been some of the most inspirational and challenging aspects of the experience?
The people we meet. The stories we hear. The lives in which we know we are making small differences. It is all about doing small things extraordinarily well, and the first part of making a bigger change is just getting to know the people we are reaching out to. That personal introduction, conversation and getting to know the other person are what make us unique.
What advice would you give other Millennials who want to start an online fundraising campaign for a humanitarian cause?
Find people who you trust and who believe in you and your mission. With a team that has faith in what they are doing and who they are working with, you’ll see that the rest falls into place.
Make a Difference
Ready to make your own impact? With YouCaring, anyone can raise funds and give back to something they feel passionate about. Jump-start your own free compassion campaign, and see our Fundraising Tips page for helpful advice on creating a successful fundraiser.