THE BLOG

Chicagoans Cooking at Home and Donating to Help Homeless Youth

01/09/2014 10:38 am ET | Updated Mar 11, 2014

The past two days in Chicago have been brutal, with temperatures dipping below -- 40 degrees with that famous wind chill and one can only imagine the effect it has had on those living on the streets, Chicago's homeless community. I, myself, spent two days hunkered down in the safety of my warm apartment allowing the cabin fever to set in. At the end of day one of Chiberia lockdown, I read an article by Robyn Pennacchia on Death and Taxes and had a chance Facebook encounter with Sarah Frier that inspired me to take action.

Sarah Frier, a friend of a friend, casually suggested that "if everyone donated $20... and instead made a weird meal out of whatever happens to be in our cabinets" it would help so much and be fun in an Instagram kind of way." I couldn't agree more. While thinking about the over 21,000 homeless people in Chicago struggling to find ways to stay warm and avoid bed bugs, I set out to begin an online fundraising campaign and the #CHIberiaChallenge was born.

Having had past experience with online fundraising and micro-giving with my three year tenure as the founder of Living Philanthropic, I created a Crowdrise page to be the home base for our grassroots movement. In the first 24 hours, over 200 people have answered the call and pledge to take the #CHIberiaChallenge with total money raised surpassing our initial expectations and currently hovering above $4,600.

After talking with Anne Bowhay of Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, we've decided to dedicate these funds to their youth group that meets every Tuesday at the Broadway Youth Center. She tells me:

The HELLO youth group is in its 10th year, believed to be one of the longest-running such groups in the U.S. ONE Northside and the Broadway Youth Center staff help CCH's youth staff run the group, with plans to again involve The Night Ministry in 2014. Youth in the group, ages 16 to 24, are coping with homelessness that usually began in their teens. Most are people of color. Some are parenting, some are LGBT.

I asked her what it would cost to cover the services this group provides for a year and with the weekly meals and CTA transit cards, it averages to $150 at week or $7,200 per year. So, we set a new goal for the #CHIberiaChallenge, we want to serve this community and provide the necessary funds to cover a year worth of services and we have reached 65 percent of our goal.

So, how can one partake in the #CHIberiaChallenge? It's very simple. This week skip that delivery order or morning latte and make dinner at home, bag a lunch, or brew your own coffee; then donate $10, $15, $20 to Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. You can even spread the world and Instagram or Tweet a photo of your homemade meal or coffee with #CHIberiaChallenge! Simple, right?

The whole goal of this movement was to inspire others to help Chicago's homeless community at one of the most physically challenging times of the year, to empower the citizens of Chicago that there is extreme power in the hands of the small donors, and to use social media for social change. We want to be the change we want to see in the world. There is life changing power in all of our hands.

So, are you up to the #CHIberiaChallenge?