Growing Together: Open Forum

  • 1.  Starting an Environmental Project with the Unhoused

    Posted 08-28-2021 05:57:00 PM
    Edited by Wesley Chen 08-28-2021 05:57:55 PM
    Hello everyone! I am a high school student from Fremont, CA and part of a student-led environmental nonprofit. We are planning to start an environmental project with our local unhoused population in which we offer them to join our environmental projects as volunteers. We will be giving them a stipend for their volunteer hours which will most likely be a weekly event that lasts for 3 or so hours. 

    The unhoused volunteers will basically be introduced to environmental conservation and they will work with us on our community projects, such as building Monarch Waystation Gardens, making/distributing Seedballs, and our urban forestry projects.

    We will be collaborating with another student-led organization in San Jose that has experience with this type of project and has already provided stipends for over 400 hours of unhoused volunteers. The aim is to bring this project to Fremont, as we have the third highest unhoused population in Alameda County, and the COVID pandemic has only made the crisis worse due to  unemployment issues and medical expenses. 

    Our main issue is naturally raising money for the stipends that we offer our unhoused volunteers but we will be starting a GoFundMe so hopefully that goes well. 

    Specific Questions:
    • Any opinions on us offering a stipend of $15 an hour for the unhoused volunteers?
      • $15 is above CA minimum wage, but this is meant to be a weekly community event and not a job.
      • The purpose of the stipend is to aid the unhoused volunteers in whatever way we can and encourage them to take part in environmental volunteer work.
    • Any opinions on expanding this project to orphanages or Afghan refugees?
    • Any tips on crowdfunding and raising money for the stipends?

    If anybody has experiences with these types of projects and would be willing to help or can direct me to any resources, I would love to hear them. Any suggestions and advice for this project are also always welcome.

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    Wesley Chen
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  • 2.  RE: Starting an Environmental Project with the Unhoused

    Posted 08-30-2021 08:51:00 AM
    HI Wesley,

    That sounds like a really wonderful experience.  I'm guessing that you could get some financial  support from corporations that operate in your community and have a foundation arm that supports environmental and social welfare.  I don't know enough about Fremont, but google to see if there is a Community Foundation to apply to first, they will be hyper local.  Second, look larger at places like banks -- Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Truist, Cadence -- all of them have Foundation arms. Again, google the bank name and corporate giving.  The guidelines will be there on how to apply.  It is often just a letter describing your endeavor. 
    Happy to help if you need application advice -- I work for a funder in the southeast.  

    All the best,

    --
    Michelle Zupan
    Curator 
    Hickory Hill & the Tom Watson Birthplace
    502 Hickory Hill Drive
    Thomson, GA  30824
    706-595-7777
    FAX: 706-595-7177

    Visit us at www.hickory-hill.org or on Facebook.
    Follow us on Twitter: HHEducation

    Historic homes of the Watson-Brown Foundation, Inc








  • 3.  RE: Starting an Environmental Project with the Unhoused

    Posted 08-31-2021 04:04:00 AM
    Hello, 

    Thanks for your words of wisdom and encouragement. We already got some donations for this project so funding has surprisingly been going better than I expected. But we have actually somewhat ran into a larger issue, which is how exactly we are gonna be paying/offering financial support to the unhoused volunteers. There are a lot of conflicting claims about nonprofits employing and whether what we are doing is considered to be employment. It's way more complicated than I thought it was going to be. Some people have suggested that we offer meals and supplies instead of direct payment, which I think might be a good idea. It's kind of a lot to handle for a student-led organization all at once but we should be able to get everything sorted out. If we need any advice on applications, I will definitely reach out to you. 

    Thanks, 
    Wesley

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    Wesley Chen
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  • 4.  RE: Starting an Environmental Project with the Unhoused

    Posted 08-31-2021 08:37:00 AM
    Hi Wesley,

    Yes, you will run afoul of employment laws, and tax laws, for offering payment. Supplies and gift cards are often a very safe route.   You may also be able to utilize what is known as a fiscal agent.  This would be a larger, more established, organization that can manage the finances for you and file the requisite tax documents, etc.  Perhaps a non-profit or even a law office (they do pro bono work) that has paid staff would be willing to assist. 

    --
    Michelle Zupan
    Curator 
    Hickory Hill & the Tom Watson Birthplace
    502 Hickory Hill Drive
    Thomson, GA  30824
    706-595-7777
    FAX: 706-595-7177

    Visit us at www.hickory-hill.org or on Facebook.
    Follow us on Twitter: HHEducation

    Historic homes of the Watson-Brown Foundation, Inc








  • 5.  RE: Starting an Environmental Project with the Unhoused

    Posted 08-31-2021 06:48:00 PM
    Hello, 

    Yea all the legal stuff is quite complicated. But I guess some potentially good news is that we have been communicating with officials from the City of Fremont, so we are hoping we can partner with the city and let them handle all the financial employment stuff. It's probably better that way as we more or less don't have any experience in all this legal and employment stuff. Plus, I'm sure the city will happily accept the money we fundraise for this project. It's better if we just focus on the environmental part and helping the unhoused. The rest of this legal stuff is way too much for us to realistically handle. 

    Thanks, 
    Wesley

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    Wesley Chen
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