Updated: Aug 6, 2018
Our friend Almease Byrd made a simple post on her FB account, noting that one of her students at Gompers Middle School in Watts needed a pair of shoes. LG was presented with an amazing opportunity to create their own event and support their "community." Watts is only 30 minutes away from where most of the LG members reside, we were excited! Each member was asked to bring a friend and see if there was anything left in their closet to give. Our Founder, Naomie created an insta video donating 7 pairs of "fresh kicks" and tagged 3 of her fellow LG'ers. Founders Gio, Diego and Josh then did the same. With over 26 pairs of amazing shoes donated in the last week, prior to the event, everyone came together for the cause. During our clothes sorting event, each item was hand picked for Gompers. Each member was asked to only pick out what they would have worn in middle school and anything that was nice and in great shape. 8 hours of sorting later, bags were especially prepared for the Watts students. Grandparents, mothers and friends all pitched in to transport LG. Everyone rushed out of class to make the mad dash to Watts, prepared to host...Sneakers for Watts. Our friend Nick V from the Baka Boyz donated three hours of radio friendly play lists and the culture committee prepared a dance routine and a spoken word piece to perform. Again, we're not just there to provide love but to ensure we connect and enlighten those we touch. Below Kaitlyn, Director of our Community Development Committee and Almease, school psychologist at Gompers provide a recap of their experience:
"Watts" by Kaitlyn Grider, Director of Community
Lets.Give was made by high school students, but made for the community. So little often are teenagers given an opportunity to understand the needs so close to their community, so close to where they grow up, where we often don't have to worry about food or shoes. With that being said, as students walked into a middle school in Watts wearing bright white t-shirts flaunting the words “Lets.Give”-there was no barrier. There was no longer us and them. There was only peers serving peers. We weren't the “heroes” here to flaunt our good deeds without minding the needs of a middle school so close to us yet so different. We were there to play basketball with some students. We were there to make sure their new shoes fit, and make sure they knew how beautiful they looked in their new clothes. The only way this connection with our middle school peers was possible was because of our connections with each other. That day, some 50 high school students left directly after school, heading straight to Watts. My car included three other like-minded students ready to serve, and also a lot of snacks. We were greeted by fellow members and new faces. Tables and tables were stacked high with clothes we had collected, and Diego and a few other boys watched over and distributed raffle tickets for the shoes generous people had donated.
Shrieks of excitement filled the area and “Mom, do you like this one?!” could be heard over the other noises of the boys playing basketball and the music. This event was more than clothes, it was about connection. Lets.Give is blessed beyond belief with talent, and our goal was to share everything we had to give. Nai shared a spoken word piece in an auditorium full of students, administrators, and families. Josh and Damon shared a dance. Everyone was anxious for the shoe raffle, where we would announce the names of who won the newer shoes. This added an element of fun, rather than charity. As students came up to get the shoes they won, they flaunted some of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen. While spirits were high, we offered food as the day came to a close. Families walked out with piles or bags of clothes and shoes in one hand, and plates of food in the other. At the end of the day, a piece of our hearts would belong to Watts and what we got to do there. We could never miss the clothes we donated, and we could never regret going to volunteer right after a long day of school, because now we were connected. We were connected to the students who we played games and danced with, we were connected to the administrators who encouraged us, and we were connected to each other, as servants of the community.
"Shopping Spree for Free" by Almease Byrd
Students and their families flooded the gates of Samuel Gompers Middle School in Watts, CA to freely shop through over 2,000 pieces of clothing and shoes donated by Lets.Give! This grand gift of service was ignited by a simple Facebook post from the school social worker's plea to meet the needs of a group of students who walked daily around school grounds in shoes that were bursting at the seams. The gamut of problems that exist in the Watts community have been intensifying over the last couple of decades, and in significant ways things are more desperate than they were even at the time of the Watts riots of 1965 as recorded in the McCone Commission report of the same year. Namely, festering conditions in Central Los Angeles such as economic deprivation, social marginalization, and powerlessness are among the very students and families residing in the Samuel Gompers Middle School community. Their needs are plenty. Nonetheless, Let.Give leaped into action to meet their basic need for clothing by collecting over 50 bags of gently used clothing and shoes- sorting and organizing each piece by gender and type in preparation for their “Shopping Spree for Free” event at Samuel Gompers Middle School on the late afternoon of June 2, 2016. Over 52 Lets.Give volunteers from varying cultures and the school’s leadership class stood at the booths to humbly aid the attendees bag their personal selection of shoes and clothing. During the intermission, students, families, teachers, and school staff were invited into the school’s auditorium to be further enriched by a clever hip hop dance and empowering spoken word. There, the excitement grew event stronger as students anxiously sat on the edge of their seats as they contemplated winning the raffle for one of 9 new pair of highly favored, name brand shoes. According to the school principal, this was “exactly what our students needed to better help them achieve, engage, and feel regarded as children.” With over 200 families present (the largest turn out for a school event at Gompers MS since 2012), the attendees gracefully ended the afternoon with a fried chicken dinner, cookies, and a spirit of gratitude.