Around the country, communities are coming together on #GivingTuesday. Our community leaders range from volunteer leaders to community foundations to large nonprofit organizations. What they have in common is a belief that bringing the community together around the spirit of collective generosity on #GivingTuesday has ripple effects far beyond the day. In this series, we’re sharing some of the highlights of #GivingTuesday community campaigns.
Q&A with Will Esposito, Founder of Hypelite and New Milford Gives
Q. What inspired Hypelite to become a #GivingTuesday community campaign leader?
A. HYPELITE’S mission is to inspire students, and #GivingTuesday has been the perfect opportunity to combine their natural motivation to do good with their interest in social media and events. We introduced #GivingTuesday to the local high school as our first student project in 2014. Working with the principal, we created THE HYPELITE CHALLENGE. Since starting with New Milford in 2014, we have onboarded the rest of the New Milford School District to participate in the challenge and attend the New Milford Gives Event.
In 2016 we started our first ever HYPELITE Club where the student members have now taken the role as GivingTuesday ambassadors and event organizers.
Q. How does #GivingTuesday help you expand your impact in New Milford?
A. Prior to my first #GivingTuesday I had no "real world" experience. I was fresh out of college and ready to simply, do good in the service of others. As a college student, I, and a close friend from high school, Alex Bridge had been working on the idea of starting an organization called HYPELITE that would inspire the next generation to pursue their passions by connecting them with opportunities and outlets to explore their curiosities and expand their potential. However, not long after graduating Alex was tragically killed and my whole life was put on pause. Realizing that Alex would want the work that he had laid the foundation for to continue, I set out to pick up where we left off.
After building a new team, we began to search for ways to do get involved in helping others and happened to stumble upon this movement called GivingTuesday. Like many startups, our first #GivingTuesday was simultaneously chaotic and inspiring, and ultimately guided by a little bit of magic. What started as a group of college students and recent college grads wanting to find a way to clear their closets while giving to those in need - ended up leading to a community-wide movement to alleviate hardship and to bring people together around a common cause.
Q. Tell us about your campaign. What's your goal? How are you building awareness and excitement?
A. Our campaign is centered around helping local homeless individuals and families through a community-wide clothing, food, and toiletry drive. This event is called New Milford Gives and our goal has always been to raise awareness about the fact that there is a homeless population in our very own community that needs our help. However, this year we are also planning to help those affected by recent natural disasters too, with our collections. We have reached potential supporters through our HYPELITE challenge at the local schools to inspire giving at the youth level. We believe that if we can inspire our youth to help those in need, then we can create a habit of giving that spans their entire lifetime.
Q. Tell us something unique about your campaign this year.
A. There are several unique aspects to our campaign but I believe the part that is most unique is the conclusion of our event where all of our efforts come full circle. We take a trip with the students to local shelters and soup kitchens to hand off the donations collected. Having the students actually see who their efforts are benefiting helps them to make the emotional connection with giving. This is something we are most proud of, the empathy and compassion that is developed throughout this process.
Q. How has your community come together through this #GivingTuesday campaign?
A. I believe the work that is happening with our HYPELITE New Milford High School students who are using their own creative skills and passions to reach their peers and community by now planning and facilitating the 4th annual New Milford Gives event is quite amazing. Students creating videos and story boards to evoke emotions from their peers, students learning public relation skills to reach media outlets, and overall coming together as global citizens to help those in need.