USF Sarasota-Manatee students launch drive to help local homeless

Dewaine Edwards and Geborah Joseph-Smith.

Dewaine Edwards and Geborah Joseph-Smith.

SARASOTA, Fla. (July 1, 2015) – Dewaine Edwards never meant to launch a collection drive for Resurrection House Inc., yet the USF Sarasota-Manatee senior quickly seized on the idea.

Now Edwards, who has been busy prodding fellow students, church members and USFSM officials to publicize the event, finds he’s at the center of the three-month effort that launches today in the campus’ rotunda.

Edwards is aiming to collect clothing, toiletries, glasses, non-perishable food, feminine products, sunscreen, sneakers and even bicycles for the Sarasota nonprofit that helps the homeless. He recently set up a collection box outside Student Services.

“I never did anything like this before, so I’m learning myself,” the 33-year-old leadership practicum student said.

Like other prospective leaders, Edwards is counting on those around him. Student Government Chief of Staff Geborah Joseph-Smith has been especially helpful. The founder of Bulls Who Believe, Joseph-Smith organized a collection drive last year for the Salvation Army.

Now she and other Student Government members are helping Edwards by urging fellow students to join in the collection. Items will be stored at the Student Government offices or student lounge until transportation to Resurrection House in downtown Sarasota can be arranged, she said. Likely, items will be delivered weekly.

Though a considerable effort, Edwards’ drive was almost an afterthought. He had arranged an internship a month ago at Resurrection House through USF Sarasota-Manatee Career Services  Coordinator Toni Ripo.

On hearing Edwards was purchasing and donating items to the day shelter on his own, Ripo suggested he hold a collection drive in the rotunda.

“I was just picking up glasses, readers, and little things I would see at the Dollar Store,” Edwards said.

Ripo then got in touch with Student Government President Alex Benishek, who assigned the task to Joseph-Smith based on her work with the Salvation Army. She said she was happy to pitch in.

Now Joseph-Smith and other Student Government members are working with Kimberly Mones, director of Student Engagement, to secure space for the clothing, sneakers, toiletries and other items. In addition, the students are using social media and OrgSync, an online resource for student organizations, to publicize the drive to family and friends.

“I’ll also be sending out texts to Bulls Who Believe (members) to get them involved,” Joseph-Smith said.

The collection was initially penciled in to run until July 17, but Joseph-Smith said campus officials gave permission to extend the drive through the fall semester.

Edwards, who spends about 10 hours a week helping at the shelter, checking in the visitors, retrieving mail and answering questions, said he was surprised to hear their stories, how they ended up homeless and how they survive on so little.

“Bicycles are really important to them, and good sneakers,” he said. “They like running shoes.”

About 200 homeless come to the shelter daily for showers, clothing, laundry, counseling and non-perishable food, volunteer manager Becky Taylor said. The idea is to help them become self-sufficient. If they land a job, they’re given bicycles to help get to work. The program was started in 1989.

Most interns come from sociology or psychology programs, she said. Edwards was unique in that he originated from the leadership program offered through the College of Arts & Sciences.

“Having the students do the drive is great,” she added. “We usually get a good response when the students are involved.”

Referring to Edwards, she said, “Dewaine is a great student. He’s eager to learn and he cares deeply. And he’s patient. You need someone like that here.”

To learn more about USF Sarasota-Manatee’s College of Arts & Sciences, visit USFSM Arts & Sciences.