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Crossing the Appalachians with Alex Wu

How did you first come to learn about Housing Families?
I discovered Housing Families in 6th grade. My sister, Allison, and I made money from selling origami cards at our local farmers market, and we wanted to donate the profits to a non-profit organization that helped children. We decided that homelessness was an issue that was very important to us. My sister and I get along well and are very close so we also decided that keeping families with children together in a home was important to us. When we emailed Housing Families, we were welcomed warmly and offered a tour of the children’s program. After the initial tour with the volunteer coordinator, I knew that I wanted to work with Housing Families more.

What inspired you to choose a hike to fund raise for HFI?
I love working, as a tutor, with the kids at Housing Families. I also love cross country running and hiking and wanted to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail. I thought I could combine two of my main interests to raise much needed funds for the program.  I am so excited that so many generous donors were willing to support my hike for Housing Families.

What was it like hiking such a challenging trail?
Hiking is like running, only up rocky hills with a 30 pound backpack.  Honestly, it was harder than I thought it would be. But I learned that I don’t need that much to survive and to be happy. I had very few items and I found that the little things can make you really happy. Plus having a good friend to have conversations with kept loneliness away. And all of the hikers were so friendly. It was fun to learn their trail names such as Taco Money or Trout.

What is your trail name (if you have one)?
I didn’t get a trail name this trip, however we met plenty of people with interesting trail names such as Trout, Beekeeper, and Taco Money.  People have to earn their trail names and I guess I didn’t do anything to get one…yet!

What other ways – like volunteering, other fundraisers, enrichment activities, etc. – have you helped out and/or supported HFI?
So far, I’ve worked at the Housing Families Summer Camp for 3 years, the GREAT Youth and Families after school program for 3 years, and helped out at the Housing Families Holiday Party for 4 years. At the holiday parties, my sister and I taught kids how to make origami cards.  It’s amazing to see how creative and talented the kids are. For the past two years, we organized the holiday boutique where HFI parents and children had the opportunity to “shop” for items just before the holidays. I love watching kids pick out presents for their parents and siblings or themselves.  We have some surprise plans for the next holiday party! In addition, I’ve run a series of fundraisers by selling origami cards with my sister, and I ran a toy drive at my high school for Housing Families around the holidays.

What’s one of your favorite things about volunteering at GYFP? Do you have a favorite experience working with a child there?
I love to see the children laughing and having a good time. I enjoy talking with all of the children because they are hilarious. I have so many good memories at Housing Families, but one that stands out was when a boy was so happy to get his watch at the Holiday Boutique that I had organized. Later that week, during the afterschool program, he proudly showed me his watch and explained that he didn’t even know how to read it. I spent the rest of the hour teaching him how to tell time on his watch.

What was your experience like fundraising? What were aspects of it you liked? Aspects you found challenging?
I enjoyed setting up the page for the fundraiser and posting my progress before and after the hike. There was some trouble building momentum in donations at first, but I felt that frequent posts and having others share the fundraiser helped.  I am incredibly grateful to all of the generous donors. These funds are going to an amazing program.

Over $8,000 is amazing – want to work in HFI’s development team when you graduate high school? :p
I would love to work in HFI’s development team!