As University of Wisconsin students rush to buy new school supplies for the semester ahead, others facing financial constraints will now be able to prepare for the remainder of the year with the help of Badger Caring Closet.
The project, spearheaded by UW’s chapter of Enactus — a community outreach organization that focuses on social entrepreneurship — aims to provide homeless or financially insecure students with items such as clothing, hygiene products and school supplies.
Having been involved with the organization since first arriving on campus, UW sophomore and project manager Sheila Griffin saw BCC as another way to fulfill Enactus’ purpose: Solve problems in a sustainable manner.
“Our main goal [as an organization] is to solve a problem in a sustainable way so we can eventually take a step back and know it will run by itself so we can keep going and solve other problems on campus,” Griffin said.
The idea originated from a similar project her co-manager, Chayce Cornette, had at her high school in Green Bay, Griffin said. Around last May, Griffin said Cornette brought up the idea of starting a similar project on campus.
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Now, with the help of clothing donations from the community and a $500 grant provided by Lutheran Memorial Church, BCC will open its doors to the UW community starting Feb. 5, Griffin said.
As someone who experienced homelessness first-hand, UW senior and McNair Scholar Brooke Evans said she becomes critical when organizations claiming to want to help the homeless community open up on campus.
Part of her hesitation, she said, stems from the fact that she feels many of those projects don’t put in enough research into the issue and have not talked to community organizations.
“If you’re going to help the homeless community, you need to get committed to what that actually means,” Evans said.
For Evans, who now serves as an advisor for BCC, that means getting out and talking to the community about what they actually need.
Instead, Evans pointed to making a push for other needed resources, like creating a service for helping write a new resume for those looking to get back to work.
“There are other things we need,” Evans said. “We don’t need 1,000 blankets.”
While there are no official parameters set for who can come in to obtain donated items, Griffin said BCC is largely available on a need basis for students who are looking for extra help.
The project, located at 325 North Mills Street, will be open from Sundays at 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Tuesdays at 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Wednesdays at 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. BCC is open at the same time as Open Seat, the campus food pantry run by Associated Students of Madison.
“While the Wisconsin Idea is great, it promotes a lot of work abroad, and we begin to forget about the work we have to do here,” Evans said. “People are just as deserving of our help here and we forget about that.”