This article originally appeared in the winter 2013 Harker Quarterly.
In 2008, grade 5 students Glenn Reddy, Jeremy Binkley and Nicholas Sancen were in search of a way to serve their community. “We didn’t want to just do a bake sale, because everyone does a bake sale,” said Reddy, who is now a junior. Instead, the lower school students collected various household items donated by the Harker community to sell at a garage sale.
The resulting club, PEACE2PEACE, held its first garage sale that year, raising $1,500 for AIDS Orphan Education Trust (AOET), which provides child welfare, medical care and other services to African children orphaned by the HIV/ AIDS crisis. It was a big enough feat to catch the attention of Google, which donated 100 laptops to AOET.
Since then, the club, now known as Students for Charitable Causes (SFCC), has held garage sales every year, benefiting a different cause each time. Members have continued to work together even as they moved from middle school to upper school, which is rare among student clubs.
“Normally what happens is when you go to the school, whatever campus you’re at, the program is already established and you’re a part of that program, and then when you go to the next campus, there’s the equivalent but for older kids,” said Reddy. “For us, the program didn’t exist. So we started the program in fifth grade and went to sixth grade and said, ‘We’re on a different campus now, why should we stop? We still want to help people; we still have the same goals.’”
Because its membership has been relatively consistent over the years, Reddy noted, the club has been able to operate more independently each subsequent year, “because we knew more about it than our club advisors did.”
“It really helped that by now everyone knows what the process is. We’re able to set a date, set a location, get everything working very early on,” said club vice president Sophia Shatas, grade 11, who joined as a middle school student.
The consistency also has enabled the club to learn from its past missteps, such as the 2010 garage sale, which raised about $800, far below expectations. “We didn’t think it through that much,” Reddy acknowledged.
Each sale since then, however, has raised more than the previous year’s sale. Earlier this year, Reddy and Shatas delivered a check for $3,200 – the highest amount yet raised – to Alejandra Villalobos, director of development for Embrace Global, which produces low-cost warmers for infants in developing countries.
“I think the club definitely matured with the leaders, so we’re a lot more organized now than in middle school,” said Shatas.
Reddy said that adding more organizational structure and delegation of responsibilities has been a big reason for the club’s success in recent years. “Having people directly responsible for these different components and actually breaking it down and having more or less an organization chart that says who’s responsible for what and who really gets the veto here or there, it helps a lot,” he said.
The club also shifted its focus to benefiting organizations based in the Bay Area, which allowed members to have more direct interaction and gain a better idea of how the money they raised was being used.
When the members of PEACE2PEACE entered the upper school, they changed the organization’s name to Students for Charitable Causes, which more closely matches the efforts they have taken on in addition to the annual garage sale. Since the 2011-12 school year, for example, the club has managed the annual upper school food drive, which delivers goods to the Second Harvest Food Bank. Members also participate in community service days, volunteering at places such as senior living homes and Resource Area for Teaching (RAFT), a nonprofit organization dedicated to hands-on learning.
In addition to giving the students more service opportunities, these outings also help complete the community service hours required by SFCC’s grade 9 members, who were recruited this year as its leaders approach graduation. “I feel that we didn’t leave enough of a legacy behind, setting the groundwork for the club to continue after we leave campus, which is something that we’re working really hard to do now,” Reddy said. To bolster the number of younger students in the organization, SFCC made sure to have a much larger presence at this year’s club fair and is looking to increase its presence on Harker’s other campuses. Already the club has engaged the middle school’s service club to assist with the drive to collect goods for the garage sale. “My dream, especially by senior year, would be to actually collect on the lower school campus as well and then work through the campuses’ respective service clubs,” Reddy said.
The club’s younger members are already starting to have a significant impact. When the club met to decide the beneficiary of the spring garage sale, freshman Arjun Subramaniam’s suggestion of Free the Children, which works to improve the lives of children in developing countries through a variety of means, was chosen. “I think that Free the Children is a wonderful organization working to combat child labor and abuse around the world, and I hope to continue supporting it and getting involved through my high school years,” Subramaniam said. Upon seeing SFCC’s display at the club fair, Subramaniam was “immediately captivated. It’s a great initiative and I definitely want to get involved and make a difference through social service.”