While many students took cover inside their homes during the recent snow storms, freshman Samantha Mendoza hiked through the icy streets of Lawrence hoping to spread warmth and help those in need.
Mendoza, a political science major, regularly uses her own savings to provide the homeless community in Lawrence with blankets, food and clothing. Mendoza urges others to understand how the simplest things can change someone’s life.
Mendoza said she would like to provide the homeless community with supplies twice a month but, she’s only been able to afford monthly outings recently. She does the majority of her giving on Massachusetts Street but also makes occasional trips to Wichita. Mendoza attempts to provide individuals with blankets and other winter necessities at least two days before a storm occurs.
“Even if you just give someone a coffee, it really does make their day,” Mendoza said. “It feels heavy in my heart when people pass by and don’t sit with them and hear their story.”
Mendoza said she is able to identify with those in need because she has been through struggles of her own. While growing up in southern Kansas, she watched her mother provide for their household of six.
“There were times we didn’t have hot water or electricity,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza reaches out to her family for help with donations to fund her . She said her mother continuously reassures her that the community appreciates her efforts and tries to help Mendoza as much as she can. Mendoza also reaches out to her family in Mexico for donations when visiting.
Saria Urbina, Mendoza’s niece, has assisted her with getting blankets from Goodwill. She said it makes her proud to see Mendoza giving back to the community.
“Samantha will try to find anything to keep someone warm," Urbina said. "She’s not one to ask for donations but she would rather go buy or get something to donate with her own money.”
Mendoza hopes to partner with the YMCA and Feeding America in order to make a bigger impact, but for now, she’s been using her passion for helping others to fund her cause.
"It gets pretty hard when I don’t have enough money to help them out and I think about all of the struggles that they’re facing,” Mendoza said. “The most rewarding thing is helping someone along the way and hearing them say thank you. Then I’m able to say ‘God bless you.’”