Editor’s note: People of UW is a human interest series produced by Madison Hibner. The series — published online and on our social media accounts — aims to highlight a student at the University of Wisconsin making an impact on the campus community. These Q&As are lightly edited for clarity and style.

JILL KRUEGER

Jill Krueger’s freshman year was much different from her other school years — with classes, clubs and volunteer groups meeting virtually. The creation of Give A Smile, Help A Child presented many students, including her, with the opportunity to get involved, meet new people and help others along the way.

Tell us about yourself.

I am the financial executive board member for the Give A Smile, Help A Child organization on campus. I am also a member of the Pre-Law Society. One of my biggest hobbies is spinning, and I currently work at Cyclebar as well! I’m really excited for my trip to Barcelona this summer where I’ll be volunteering for two weeks with special needs children.

What is Give A Smile, Help A Child and how was it created?

My freshman year of college began in the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, so most classes and activities were online, which made it difficult to get involved. As a result, my friends and I decided we wanted to start our own club during our second semester. It worked out perfectly since we each were studying different subjects that blended well together when creating our organization.

GASHAC is partnered with Head Start in Waukesha, a low-income preschool for families about an hour away from Madison. Many of the families of children who attend this preschool make under $20,000 annually. During COVID-19, it wasn’t safe to visit the kids, so we would send gift bags for major holidays like Halloween, Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter and Valentine’s Day. Each gift bag consists of practical items like toothbrushes, socks and masks since these are often items the children don’t have easy access to. The bags also include a fun little gift like a holiday-themed necklace or cool erasers. We also write personalized letters to the kids in between these holidays.

While it’s important to be involved in academic clubs to prepare for your career, it’s also important to be a part of an organization that you’re passionate about because it’s fun. GASHAC allows our members to have fun while also giving back to these children. This club specifically keeps life in perspective and reminds students to help those that are less fortunate. Our members can either donate money to help purchase items for our gift bags or they can donate their time through fundraising activities.

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As the financial executive, how does GASHAC fundraise?

Occasionally, we have restaurant fundraisers around Madison where a portion of the restaurant’s profits for an evening are donated to GASHAC. But, we haven’t had much luck with that method. Our most successful fundraiser was selling raffle tickets to family and friends, extending our reach past the UW campus. These tickets could be sold virtually anywhere, and many people are willing to donate since we are a nonprofit organization. At the end of the raffle, the winner receives a gift card to a restaurant or store.

What are the future goals of GASHAC?

Our main goal entering the fall 2022 semester is to plan an activity where we actually get to interact with the kids. In the past, because of COVID-19 guidelines, we’ve arranged Zoom calls with the kids, but it would be so exciting to have these interactions in person. Ideally, we’d like to do something fun, like a trip to the zoo or a trampoline park.

How will your involvement with GASHAC impact your professional life post-graduation?

My position in finance has taught me a ton about the functioning of a non-profit organization. Since we created GASHAC, I had to go through the process of creating a bank account and registering the club through the IRS. Post-graduation, I would like to study corporate law, so the financial experiences I’ve gained will certainly help me.

From a leadership standpoint, I’ve further developed my organizational and communication skills. Being a leader in GASHAC has also increased my passion for what we do. Being so involved in a nonprofit organization has made me passionate about giving back to others which is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

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What is an experience from GASHAC that has impacted you?

Over spring break, I dropped off the St. Patrick’s Day gift bags at Head Start in Waukesha for the first time. When I gave the bags to the coordinator, she saw that we had included St. Patrick’s Day necklaces inside and was ecstatic. She kept saying how excited the kids were going to be and how much joy this small gift bag will bring them. It really made me so happy to hear how our efforts can brighten the days of little children.