By Janet Goetze
For the Hollywood Star News
Two local non-profit groups seeking internet financing – called crowdfunding – want to transform post-secondary education, in one case, and, in the second, to provide health and self-care products for low-income families.
The need for basic health products became evident to Elizabeth Candello while doing research for her doctoral thesis. She learned that families receiving federal food assistance can’t use the program to acquire such things as bath soap, vitamins, toilet paper, toothpaste, Band-Aids and feminine hygiene products.
SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that has replaced food stamps, is only for food. Mothers must stretch their budgets to pay for items that could keep their children healthy and meet basic sanitary needs, Candello said.
She is using crowdfunding to help launch Live.Treat.Heal.Repeat, a non-profit for providing health and sanitary products. She’s starting in the Cully neighborhood, where she did research on how low-income people access public services, but she expects to go to other neighborhoods in the future.
Michelle Jones initially used crowdfunding to help develop a two-year community college, Wayfinding Academy. With the help of mentors, it asks students to reflect on what they are passionate about and how they want to contribute to their communities before deciding on a major or a career path.
Jones, who has been teaching at the college level for 15 years, said she has met students who don’t know why they are in college or what they want to do with their lives. With college costs climbing, she said, that’s an expensive way to explore classes and majors without guidance. In addition, more than 40 percent of U.S. students who start college don’t complete a degree, she said.
Wayfinding Academy, which is scheduled to begin with 24 students in September 2016, offers a core curriculum, a portfolio of eight to ten items chosen by the student working with a team of advisors, workshops and seminars offered by rotating faculty, and such community connections as cultural events, performances and film screenings. The school’s website, with more details, is www.wayfindingacademy.org. A section for donations is on the website because the crowdfunding campaign has ended.
The two initiators chose crowdfunding as a way to raise money with the help of people who see their proposals on the internet or hear about them from friends. In effect, contributors become a “crowd” of supporters to help launch new ideas, products or businesses. Supporters donate funds through a specific online platform, which may include IndieGoGo, Kickstarter, GoFundMe or artistShare, which is often credited with starting the practice of crowdfunding, especially for art and music projects.
Candello chose GoFundMe because, she said, it is a platform that does well with non-profit service groups. For more information: www.gofundme.com/zx5bhw.
Jones selected IndieGoGo because she saw it as a platform that would work well for starting an educational institution. The American Gap Association, which fosters non-traditional higher education experiences, was the fiscal sponsor for the campaign.
Candello, who teaches communication at Washington State University in Vancouver, Washington, selected Live.Treat.Heal.Repeat as a neutral name for the non-profit.
“I wanted a name that didn’t infer ‘charity’ in any way,” she said, “and that raised awareness that treatments and prevention and a regimen can allow people to stay healthy and live their lives, even on a budget.”
Volunteers are contacting her and she hopes to have items available by the end of the year at a Multnomah County community center, where families already go for activities and services. “That’s so people wouldn’t have to go to a place where they would feel inferior,” she said.
Federal figures indicate Oregon is fifth among the 50 states for people receiving SNAP. Candello said about 23 percent of Portlanders, including many with jobs, live below the poverty line. She suggests that others think about what they regard as essential in their medicine cabinets in order to recognize what low-income people may have difficulty acquiring regularly.
Jones, working with 20 board members from a variety of disciplines, will leave her position in the business management department at Concordia University in December. She will work full time to launch Wayfinding, including preparations for accreditation and a class site.
In the meantime, board members are developing seminars with the hope that one or two may be offered before the end of the year for community members. Information will be on the website, Jones said.