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Life West students embrace idea of Give, Do, Love, Serve

In just one week of collecting, Life West student Riley Gerlinger stored several bags of clothes for a What Did She Say? event.

If you’ve been on the Hayward campus of Life Chiropractic College West in recent months, you’ve seen the bustle that comes with a busy college campus. Did you also notice the opportunities to give and serve?

Three separate service projects have taken place since January, all driven by students who have taken the Life West motto of “Give, Do, Love, Serve” to heart and found a way to act up on it.

In December, January and February, collection bins for One Warm Coat were scattered around campus. The project, organized by student Erin McGonigle, collected 57 coats. The jackets were dropped off at the Homeless Youth Alliance in San Francisco.

One Warm Coat is a national non-profit organization that works to provide a free, warm coat to any person in need. Coats are distributed within the communities that they are collected, and volunteers like McGonigle may represent an individual, group or company in organizing the coat drive and taking donations to a collection point at the end of the drive.

McGonigle said she was inspired to act by the number of homeless. “There are so many people living on the street who are not dressed appropriately and don’t have sleeping gear,” she said. She was at a Goodwill store in the Haight, she added, when a guy walked in dressed in only a green cotton robe, like what you’d wear after being admitted to the hospital. “It was December, and he asked the lady if he could just come in and get a shirt.” McGonigle gave the cashier $20 for the man’s clothes, and said that was the messenger that kicked her into gear. She did some research to figure out where she could make the biggest impact, and she found One Warm Coat.

“Life West makes it very easy for anyone to launch an idea that has a socially conscious agenda,” McGonigle said about organizing the drive. Jackie Biron, the former Student Life director, and her successor, Dani Lorta, helped get the message out and found collection drums for the project. “They really helped and supported me,” McGonigle said.

She added that people from the community at large were definitely donating several of the coats. About 16-18 large plastic garbage bags were filled with donations, many of which came from the bin near the Health Clinic.

Collecting for teens

In February and March, a new collection bin appeared in Sid Square. Organized by students Riley Gerlinger and Alison Gratz, this drive collects women’s clothes for teen girls. The mission of the What Did She Say? project is to give girls an outlet to feel comfortable, confident and encourage self-expression.

Gerlinger said she collected clothes for three weeks, and each week there was an overflowing collection bin of items that ranged from casual to professional to sporty. In an email, she wrote: “So now that I have a wonderful garage filled with clothes, the next part of this project is to put on a women’s event where volunteer personal stylists assist the girls in finding new outfits that fit them right and that they love.”

The clothes will be distributed at an event for Bay Area teen girls in a collaborative partnership between What Did She Say? and the non-profit organization 1Closet.

“The mission for the personal stylists is to become friends or peer mentors to the participating girls,” Gerlinger added. “The goal is to help the girls feel cared for and safe and to leave with a new contact or two in their phones to reach out to if they need a friend or advice. Our mission through clothes is to provide girls with outfits that encourage them to feel confident and inspire their self-expression.”

The Salesforce Tower in San Francisco will be hosting the event April 27. Along with the shopping spree, Gerlinger said they aim to encourage and empower young women with a panel of remarkably bold female leaders from an array of professions. “During this ‘Girl Talk’ portion of the event, we will be talking personal development in topics like self-love, identity, values, as well as resume-building for their future careers,” she said.

Gerlinger said she wanted to make a positive impact in the community in her own way. “Clothes are an easy way to give and impact others because many of us have excess in our closets,” she said. “I have also noticed lately the remarkable power and confidence that girls are able to find within themselves when they are in the comfort and safety of other females, so this encouraged the What Did She Say? all female event.”

1Closet is a non-profit organization founded in 2011 that partners with high schools to hold clothing drives, which then are sorted and given to social services agencies in the East Bay and beyond who serve foster care and youth shelters.

A third service opportunity is also in the works. The Sorority, Zeta Phi Chi, is planning a blood drive with the Red Cross. Stay tuned for more details!

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