Today marks the beginning of donation week for Swipes for the Homeless, a USC student group that donates students’ extra dining dollars to the Los Angeles Mission, a non-profit organization that serves the homeless in the L.A. area.
Swipes for the Homeless was founded at UCLA in 2009 and has extended to 10 university campuses worldwide, including UC Irvine, University of Texas at San Marcos, University of Paris in France and USC. The USC program was founded last semester and collected more than $17,000 from more than 200 students.
This year, the organization hopes to raise a total of $20,000 that will benefit the Los Angeles Mission.
Swipes for the Homeless works directly with USC Hospitality to purchase food with donated dining dollars that will be given to the Los Angeles Mission. Both last semester and this semester, the mission asked for non-perishable goods and meat, in particular.
According to Monica Bral, the organization’s co-president, few students are reluctant to donate their dining dollars. Instead, the organization’s main issue is spreading the word on campus about donation week and reaching out to as many students as possible.
“Our challenge is to raise awareness about the organization throughout campus,” Bral said. “We are working on ways to market ourselves and hope we will reach more students this semester. Once students know about it then [they] are almost always willing to donate.”
Several students said the organization is right to focus on promoting its cause. Madeline Berry, a sophomore majoring in neuroscience, said she would have donated much more of her unused dining dollars as a freshman if she had known about the program last year.
“It’s a really great idea, but I wish I’d known about it sooner because I spent a lot of money unnecessarily last year just because I knew I had the money to spend,” Berry said. “I would have been able to donate even more than I did to people that actually needed it if I’d heard about it sooner.”
This year, Swipes for the Homeless has reached out to students, particularly freshmen, through increased advertising and fliers with detailed information about how the donation process works.
Students can donate any amount of their remaining dining dollars by stopping at one of the organization’s tables, located outside of the USC Bookstore and Trojan Grounds. According to Swipes for the Homeless Co-President Sabrina Aziz, donating is easier than ever.
“If students want to donate, they can stop by our tables this week and sign up to donate their extra dining dollars,” Aziz said. “The dining dollars will not be touched until the end of the semester when students don’t have access to the money anymore. Students can even just write ‘remaining balance’ so that if they have a remaining balance at the end of the semester, instead of being wasted, it will go to the L.A. Mission.”
Liz Friedman, a freshman majoring in international relations and global business, says that Swipes for the Homeless is a constructive way to use her remaining dining dollars at the end of the semester.
“I definitely want to donate the rest of my money to Swipes for the Homeless because otherwise I feel like I’m buying food that I don’t really need,” she said. “You lose money if you don’t spend all of your dining dollars that you paid for in the beginning of the semester, so why not donate the rest to a great cause?”
Swipes for the Homeless has received a great reception from the Trojan community, and Bral said this support will ensure that the organization will continue collecting donations in the future.
“It is a great cause and we get a lot of positive feedback from students, faculty and staff,” Bral said. “It is a win-win situation because students do not have access to their cards and money any longer, and the homeless can really use the meals. For us it’s a swipe, for them it’s hope.”