Mountain View High School’s Leo Club has raised more than $2,000 in COVID-19 relief funds for the homeless, overcoming the challenges of an abrupt school closure in March and social-distancing restrictions that remain in place.
The Leo Club is a branch of Lions Club International, an organization dedicated to promoting community service work and connecting local groups to large-scale initiatives. The Mountain View High chapter averages 20 members each school year.
According to public relations officer Jessi Jha, the club aims to partner with nonprofit organizations and host community outreach events to “help the local and international communities.”
Club president Arjun Shivkumar said the club most recently teamed with LifeMoves, a nonprofit dedicated to combating homelessness in Silicon Valley. He noted that the organization typically provides shelter to individuals and families in the area but had to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization is now collecting donations to provide emergency support to those affected.
LifeMoves allows clubs or individuals to fundraise by providing a fundraising page and flexibility with their monetary goal. The Leo Club set its goal at $2,000 and reached that within the first month.
The club collected online donations and promoted the cause through social media and the Nextdoor network. Jha said collecting donations was initially challenging because of the barriers of an online-only fundraiser.
“In the beginning, getting enough publicity and getting it on its feet was the difficult part,” she said. “Once people were able to see that our fundraiser was actually up and running and … was actually something that was going to have a sizable impact, that was when our donations started coming in.”
Jha said she found being able to help during the crisis fulfilling, despite the lack of contact with those affected.
“Maybe we won’t be able to meet them,” she said, “but there are a bunch of families and individuals, especially now in this economic hardship, who will be able to benefit from these services, something as small as a blanket or a warm meal – and that’s really fulfilling and something we had as a goal from the beginning of the year.”
Book and food drives
Before the school closed, the club had planned to participate in the African Library Project for the 14th consecutive year. Past members have worked together to collect 1,000 book donations from the community and raise the funds needed to send the books to one of nine locations in Africa to help establish libraries. Donations from last year’s book drive, held at Oak Avenue School, helped build a library in Botswana.
According to Jha, shipping more than 1,000 books is expensive and requires an additional fundraiser to cover the cost. In past years, the club has collected donations at back-to-school night and held a garage sale annually.
This year the club planned to fundraise by hosting an e-waste collection drive. Companies pay people to donate their e-waste because it can be recycled or reused in the future.
“We were going to set up posters and advertise the drive on Nextdoor to have people donate their e-waste to us,” Shivkumar said.
Due to the pandemic, the club was unable to participate in the African Library project this year and will no longer be holding an e-waste drive. However, Shivkumar said members plan to participate next school year.
The Leo Club also works with Rise Against Hunger, an international organization working to combat hunger, by packaging meals to be sent to people in need. One event is hosted annually in the Bay Area and the club helps package 10,000 boxes of food, which include rice, dried vegetables and a soy-based protein.
This year the meals from the Bay Area event were sent to schools in Vietnam, “so that these children can be fed instead of having to work during the day,” Jha said.
“They will end up going to school and getting an education that will help benefit their future,” she added.
Shivkumar said the event is popular and spots fill up quickly.
“It’s really fun and it helps build relationships with other schools … and you get to talk to people and learn new things about people you didn’t know,” he said.
Before COVID-19 caused schools to close, Jha said the club wanted to do more local community outreach and worked with Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital to create activity kits for cancer patients.
“For children who are spending long days in the hospital awaiting treatment, it can be boring, so we created coloring kits and craft kits with stickers, colored pencils, coloring pages and other fun supplies that would brighten their day,” Jha said.
Hospital officials appreciate their efforts – Shivkumar said club members met with the director in Palo Alto and accepted a certificate of recognition.
Next year the club hopes to incorporate new ideas such as beach cleanups and fundraising for the visually impaired.
“To anyone coming to Mountain View High School, I implore you to try volunteering and getting involved with a community service organization such as the Leo Club,” Shivkumar said.
The Leo Club is accepting donations for LifeMoves. To donate, visit give.lifemoves.org/vf/RELIEF/team/MountainViewHighSchool.