Conversations about stimulus checks and how eligible Americans are spending them have been popping up since the $1,200 began to appear in people’s bank accounts in early April. And while the one-time government payment is part of an effort to help those struggling economically during the coronavirus pandemic, others who have maintained financial stability have been looking for different ways to use it.
“I don’t really need this. I didn’t think I was gonna have this money, I still have my job,” Kevin Miller, a social entrepreneur based out of Raleigh, N.C. recalls discussing with a friend. Meanwhile, advertisements for items like a television being sold for the convenient price of $1,200 were appearing around him. “If people could spend their whole stimulus check on something like a new TV to get a few extra inches of screen, how can we convince them to spend that money to help people in a time of crisis?”
For Miller and one of his fellow North Carolina State University (NCSU) alumni, Ryan O'Donnell, coming up with ways to donate their checks to places like the local food bank or another nonprofit in need wasn’t out of the blue. In fact, O’Donnell holds the world record for organizing the largest food drive back when he was in high school. But the thought behind their latest venture was how to get others to take part in the spirit of generosity that they were experiencing when otherwise feeling powerless.
“We’re not nurses, we’re not doctors, we’re not firefighters,” Miller says. So, they created a nonprofit organization called Pledge My Check, with the mission to collect and display pledges from people wanting to put their money toward a helpful cause. The cause is completely up to the person donating and no portion of the money touches the volunteer’s hands.
“We’re trying to inspire more people to do it. And when people give to organizations they know or people they know, that means we don’t take a cut. We don’t want a cut of that,” Miller explains. “We want all of their donation to go where it’s gonna go and we reach out to people to ask them if they’ve donated and keep track of who donates.”
“I wondered how people would feel about the fact that the pledges aren’t wiring any money through us,” Craig Prince, a recent NCSU grad and Pledge My Check volunteer tells Yahoo Life. “But I actually really love the way it’s turned out for a number of reasons. The primary one being that if we’re handling money, it can get really complicated for someone to give us money and then for us to try to send it to their neighbor.”
By relieving themselves of middle-man duties, the organization enables people making donations to be in control of where exactly their money is going and who it is positively impacting, whether that be a nationwide nonprofit or a family living next door. In one case, this even allowed Tenley Garrett, living in N.C., to give to a Venezuelan family living in Colombia who has limited access to health care, who she lived with for a week during a college journalism trip.
“When I received the stimulus check, it just seemed like a no-brainer to find someone who is in a much more difficult situation right now and show them some support,” Garrett tells Yahoo Life. “I've been actively sending money to this family since March of 2019, and after selling my 2000 Honda Civic and using the money to cover the rest of the cost of surgery for their youngest daughter, I was feeling a bit drained on what I could give to them. ... As soon as I got the stimulus check I decided to split it up for three different recipients, and sent $300 to the family.”
Garrett explains that the money was able to afford the family one month’s rent, in addition to groceries. “They had been eating only rice every meal. With the donation, they could finally afford to get meat, fruits, cakes, milk and eggs,” she says.
By making a public pledge to participate in this donation, she explains that it kept her accountable and provided her with a game plan. Prince adds that Garrett’s donation now plays a role in inspiring others to give, just by means of making the pledge. While others are donating to local or national causes, he adds that Garrett’s donation goes to show that “generosity does not have borders.”
After launching the Pledge My Check site and receiving the first pledge on April 13, the organization has already inspired $130,410 in pledged donations from hundreds of people across 15 states as of Friday afternoon. But the nonprofit’s volunteers have a much larger goal in mind.
“Our goal is $1 million across all 50 states,” Miller says. “I really think we can get there.”
Prince adds that through their unique system of tracking pledges and following up as a means of accountability, Pledge My Check and its group of just over a dozen volunteers has been able to support more donations in a shorter amount of time than they would have the ability if they were executing the donations themselves.
“That would be incredibly difficult for us to set up and handle in this short time frame,” he says. “It’s been a really empowering thing where we’re kind of like this message board for people realizing I can make a difference even with this money that’s been given to me.”
Miller additionally assures Yahoo Life that the organization doesn’t intend to “guilt people out of a stimulus check,” whether they need it or not.
“Do what you want to do with it,” he says. “But if you’re sitting at home and you really want to do something and you don’t need this money, that’s where you could think of who really needs this right now whose life has been turned upside down. And if people can’t donate, they can totally help by sharing. ‘Cause someone they know might be able to.”
For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.
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