Read how four teens founded and are successfully running a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Hope Hearted works with shelters, food banks, and free clinics to distribute sanitary and basic medical supplies to unhoused and low-income individuals in the Bay Area, California. Their incredible story of how they have now grown to an organization that’s making a big impact with 150 registered volunteers and 12 partner organizations is below.
My name is Asavari and I’m the CEO of Hope Hearted, a 501(c)(3) volunteer-run nonprofit organization based in the Bay Area that works to distribute sanitary and basic medical supplies to unhoused and low-income individuals in our community through distributions at shelters, food banks, and free clinics.
Hope Hearted actually began as a small project in a local San Jose hospital, where three of our founders – Chloe, Quynh, and myself – volunteered. I volunteered for a patient hospitality program at the hospital known as the Sunshine Cart, which was started by our COO, Chloe Duckworth. My job with the Sunshine Cart involved going to each room in the hospital and checking in on the patients, giving them any toiletries that they needed, getting them water, etc.
After a year of volunteering, I noticed that the hospital’s Materials Department had to throw away many of the supplies due to various regulations, such as the products being too close to expiration or the products being handed out but not used. As a result, many toiletries and basic medical supplies would often get discarded even though they were still in usable condition. Many of the patients in the hospital were unhoused or from low-income backgrounds so I knew that there was definitely a need for these supplies outside the hospital’s doors. Fortunately, the volunteer management at the hospital agreed when I reached out and asked if I could get some of the supplies and distribute them to unhoused and low-income families at a local food bank I used to work at.
The project was successful through the year but had to come to an end when the pandemic began and we volunteers were forced to stay out of the hospital to prevent transmission. I was able to keep the project going by working with Quynh, Chloe, and Heather to develop it into a nonprofit so that we could start getting donations and sponsorships in order to buy brand new supplies to distribute.
We now have over 150 registered volunteers and 12 partner organizations, including shelters, food banks, domestic abuse homes, free clinics, and a street medicine program at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center! Of course, none of what we do would have been possible without the help of our volunteers, donors, sponsors, and community. In fact, all of the masks we distribute have been donated or hand-made by members of our community – neighbors, girl scout troops, friends, and family.
We’re really grateful for how far we’ve come but we also know that there is a long way to go. The reason Hope Hearted began was to serve as a resource to some of our most vulnerable community members. The unhoused crisis in California has only grown through the years and the reasons behind it are complicated. There is always action needed at the legislative level to help solve such a huge problem, but Hope Hearted is a community-driven initiative that aims to contribute to the solution as best we can.
Over the past year, it has personally been amazing to see so many volunteers step up to help our cause. It just goes to show the motivation in our community to better itself and help pull up those who have fallen through the cracks. We have hope for a better future and we’re working for it through service.