The idea of showing some skin and baring all is not the first thing that comes to mind when approaching a community challenge like homelessness. The Shirt Off My Back Campaign uses innovative engagement tools to makes community awareness and assistance easy and fun.
The Atlanta community is moving, shaking, and making a culture of creativity and engagement. In a city with this kind of vibrant, diverse and thriving history, it is hard not to feel the inspiration. Laura Gentle founder of the Shirt Off My Back (SOMB) Campaign, is a leader in her community, making the younger generations aware of the challenges that their community faces and how they can help.
Laura recognized that, "when we hear about volunteer opportunities, we think it's going to take too much time and we kind of put up walls to why we shouldn't get involved, and I think the first step is to understand that you really can make a difference."
Laura founded SOMB in response to a need among her peers to give back, and her desire to see an increased understanding of issues facing Atlanta. During her work with AmeriCorps Vista Taskforce for the Homeless, Laura recognized that people were pressed for time and money but still wanted to find a way that they could help the people in their community. Laura herself, once homeless, knew that the needs of the homeless were great.
She combined her love of photography, passion for service, and organizational know-how to make a campaign that did more than just clothe the homeless. It starts with a photo shoot at a local bar, where SOMB encourages those who participate to bring along any donations of clothes. The participants get a professional photo, and the campaign gets a new ad, as well as much needed clothing donations.
After collecting the clothes, SOMB then donates them to different Atlanta shelters and clothing assistance providers.
The photo shoot is fun but it is more than just a good time. It is the beginning of a community movement toward recognition and action. "The photo shoots serve to raise awareness about the campaign in a kind of hip, modern way, and people can follow up with clothing donations either at the shoots or afterwards, they can contact us and we can let them know where the most needs is," explains Laura.
Laura has enabled her community to take the first steps in making a difference: being aware of the needs of others and sharing that message, all while donating clothes that are much needed. The photo campaign turns donors into models. It is an opportunity to show support, build camaraderie, and reinvigorate commitment to the community.