At 5 p.m. on Jan. 20, the doors to the Hinman Commons were thrown open and a stampede of Binghamton University students stormed in. Immediately, they dispersed and began to investigate. Curious hands danced over racks of shirts and piles of folded pants. Students tried on jackets and modeled them for their friends, and final selections were purchased with happy, excited smiles. A thrift shop had made its way to campus, clothing items were all under $15 and to the broke college kids, it was heaven on earth.
The thrift shop was initiated by Jacob Kerr, a freshman in the individualized major program. Kerr and his friends spent winter break collecting clothing donations from family and neighbors, which they then sold to raise money for conservation efforts in the BU Nature Preserve. Titled the “Pop-Up Thrift Shop,” the event itself lasted just one evening, but the turnout was impressive. At the end of the night, Kerr and his friends had succeeded in raising over $1,000.
This success serves to show the power of fundraisers and how they can effect great change. Though the problems of the world may sometimes seem too daunting to do anything about, the truth is that there are many small ways to make a huge difference. Fundraising is a relatively simple way of doing so.
“The great thing about volunteering and fundraising is that there is no failure, no risk — you just have to put yourself out there,” Kerr said. “My advice to people with a drive to help is to remember that there is no cause too small. Even if the shop made five dollars, that’s five dollars the Nature Preserve didn’t have before.”
Dylan Horvath, steward of the natural areas at BU, wrote in an email, “The majority of actual management in the Nature Preserve relies on donations of funds, efforts, time and sometimes materials.”
This is why Kerr’s donation is so important. It will likely be used to fight the hemlock woolly adelgid, an invasive insect that is reaping destruction on hemlock trees in the Nature Preserve. The insect leeches off the nutrients stored in the trees, ultimately depriving them of their ability to grow and survive. Treating the hemlock trees with chemicals that kill the hemlock woolly adelgid is one of the larger expenses, so every bit of donation money is helpful.
We all have causes that we are passionate about. Whether it be alleviating poverty, ending racism or fighting cancer, we all possess a desire to contribute to some cause larger than ourselves. Kerr spoke about how to take this passion and do something tangible with it.
“There’s a major gap between planning and doing, and to bridge that gap is the most difficult part,” he said. “I would say the key to doing it is being open and public about your ideas, talk to people with confidence that it is going to happen.”
There are almost infinite opportunities for students to start fundraisers here at BU. They happen all the time at the University Union and underneath the flags in Glenn G. Bartle Library. While these fundraisers are often run by groups and clubs, individual students can do the same.
Get inspired about a cause and go do something about it. Kerr was inspired by the overflow of old T-shirts in his dresser, of all things. If he can find inspiration between his dresser and the beautiful Nature Preserve that lies just outside his dorm window, so can you.
Georgia Kerkezis is a sophomore majoring in environmental studies.