Students Empowering Local Futures, a University student organization, works with the Lawrence Community Shelter to raise awareness about the homeless community. On May 4, the student volunteers and Lawrence shelter will host a fundraising event.
Alex Kong, a senior from Lawrence who co-founded the organization last fall, said he hopes the event raises both money and awareness for the shelter's growing opportunity to help guests.
Drew VonEhrenkrook, director of employment and jobs at the shelter, said the event is not something the regular shelter staff would necessarily have time to coordinate, and he was especially thankful for SELF and the student volunteers.
“I think it’s great that we can showcase not only these wonderful volunteers and what they’re doing but getting these stories out there as well,” VonEhrenkrook said. “I think what [people who attend the event] will come away with is the resilience these individuals have. Getting that awareness out there is incredibly helpful to our cause.”
Kong said began volunteering at the shelter a year ago. He began by helping guests fill out online applications for jobs and housing. He said he wanted to increase his outreach when he realized his role allowed him to only help one guest at a time due to the shelter only having one computer.
Kong formed the group when he began working with other students. Kong said SELF has been able to provide the Lawrence Community Shelter with 15 computers and put together an after-school program for children at the shelter. The organization has also arranged a series of monthly health presentations.
“You can’t help but realize that these are people just like us that, especially as college students, we can just be a step or two away from the same situation from having that financial instability,” Kong said.
He said one of the goals is to raise awareness of Lawrence's homeless community.
"We take it kind of personally when we see in other news sources that people are digging on the shelter and doing that without realizing who the population is," he said.
The group will hold a fundraising event at 7 p.m. May 4 at Maceli’s Banquet Hall & Catering on 1031 New Hampshire St. Tickets for the event, which can be purchased at the shelter website, are $25 and include a full meal.
Kong said the goal is to have 100 attendees at the fundraiser, which would raise $1,300 for the shelter. He said there will also be a silent auction with donated items from various partners around the community, which could raise the event total to around $3,000.
— Edited by Skylar Rolstad