Brunch Club is Taking on Homelessness, and Won’t Stop Until It’s Done
”If the fastest growing homeless population is children under 9, which it is, that tells us things aren’t going well. That’s when I decided to do everything I could to end the cycle of homelessness. Children being born on the streets isn’t something I can live with”.
Jennifer Crone is part of a growing population of powerfully positive, global citizens who have big ideas and make them happen through passion, innovative thinking and a focus on collective and collaborative approaches to affecting positive change.
Crone is the founder of Brunch Club, a non profit organization that is working to stop the cycle of homelessness across America, with sights to expand globally. We got in touch with Jennifer for an insight into Brunch Club, and the inspirational mind behind its creation.
In your words as founder, could you give a brief summary of what Brunch Club is all about?
Brunch Club aids people experiencing homelessness in a holistic way, with the guiding principle being the belief that every life matters. Homelessness is a complicated issue and we know the best way to help is to serve on multiple fronts.
We help those living on the streets by providing food, water, essential hygiene and cold weather items to several hundred people per month.
Secondly, we help those in shelters who are transitioning with our Mind and Body Health and Wellness programs, teaching principles like how to cook a healthy meal for yourself, meditation and yoga.
Lastly, we aim to employ people after their transition into housing, creating jobs and providing a sense of pride and a paycheck. This is how we end the cycle of homelessness, which is our overall goal.
What were you doing before you decided to start Brunch Club?
After college I worked for a few years in the non profit industry: fundraising, event planning and freelance writing gigs, but I wasn’t happy. I’ve volunteered my whole life but I’ve always found opportunities are really inaccessible – organisations asking for hundreds of dollars and time commitments before being able to volunteer. I was like “How is it this hard to help out?”
That’s something I am very mindful of, I want to make sure our events are easy for people to be involved as much or as little as they want.
What was the catalyst for Brunch Club’s conception? Was there a moment you can pinpoint that sparked the fire in you to create the organisation?
Homelessness has never made sense to me, that we wouldn’t help each other out when we’re in need.
Most of the stories (of the homeless) I’ve heard are very similar to my own life and everyone I know, they just have a turn at some point where things got bad and didn’t get better.
A man I met near my old apartment in Murray Hill had gone to college, had a family, a house, a car… until he got divorced and his wife sued for custody of their kids. He lost his job in the economic downturn and with the legal fees lost his car as well, then his home. He ended up with nothing.
He was a sweet, kind man who had lost everything. Unfortunately this is not a unique story. I see myself and my loved ones in every person on the street, and when you see things that way it’s impossible not to care.
Have you got a most memorable interaction with someone you have helped out?
One of my favorite interactions is also a very emotional one. We were serving buffet style and a kid of 17 was sort of hanging out in the background, not coming up to get food from us but it felt like he wanted to. I noticed him hanging back and went up to ask him if he wanted a plate. He lit up when I went over to him and his nervousness faded. He came up to get a plate and was asking us a few questions about why we were out today.
After a few moments he began to break down and cry. A friend of mine, Branko, walked up without hesitation to hug him as he sobbed. Finally when he calmed down a bit he told us he’d been on the streets his whole life. He said he’d watched his parents, his cousins, friends, all die on the streets. He told us it was his greatest dream to live to his 18th birthday.
He then asked us if we would pray for his safety. We’re not a faith based group, but Branko took his hand and mine and we made a circle, a few other volunteers joining us, and Branko said a prayer. Everyone’s eyes were closed at this moment and it was very emotionally charged.
At this point his tears had dried and been replaced by a small but hopeful smile. He thanked us over and over again, we all took turns hugging, and he was on his way. I’ve never seen him again but I think of him often. I hope he made it to his birthday.
You mentioned your work was having a ‘ripple effect’ of kindness and compassion?
Changing someone’s day with a warm meal, a smile and kind words can be pretty powerful. Yes, we are providing tangible items like blankets and gloves to combat the cold, but the times I’ve seen people’s faces transform the most have been through reading the notes (that our volunteers attach to care packages) and inside of hugs.
What I didn’t expect was that our events and mission would change the lives of those who volunteer. We have a number of young children who volunteer and they are so fearless and judgement free, it’s amazing! Around the holidays a little boy told his mom that he wanted his Christmas presents to go to the homeless kids. That blew her away, she teared up.
What are the different ways in which people can help – directly or indirectly?
What we need help with the most are 2 things, spreading awareness about who we are and what we’re accomplishing, and fundraising, and those things are easy to do together. Sharing what we’re doing with your social network is easy, you can follow us and share on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook to stay up to date on opportunities to get involved.
We just launched a really great platform on our website that allows people to fundraise for any reason they want. You can create a campaign for your birthday, for a marathon you’re running, throw a party, grow a beard, host an open mic night, anything you can think of. There are perks for fundraising and we’ll be sending surprises to our fundraisers as well to show our appreciation.
We really value our supporters and like to show that. You can also ask your company to match your donations for a personal donation or a fundraiser. Go to “ACT” on our website to start your fundraiser. If you’re local to San Diego you can volunteer, but if you’re not creating a fundraiser or simply donating and spreading the word is a huge help.