By Kiara Pickett
Even before the novel coronavirus caused economic devastation in cities across the country, 9-year-old Jarrod Hofstetter and his 12-year old sister, Joelle, were raising money to help homeless people in Oakland.
Jarrod, who goes to Mills College Children’s School, and Joelle, who attends Alameda Community Learning Center, created a GoFundMe with their mother on Jan. 14. In the first four hours after the page was posted, they raised $700. Total donations have nearly doubled since then.
Jarrod and Joelle used the money to create care packages called “Joy Care Kits.” The kits include necessities such as an orange juice box, apple sauce, a spoon, a granola bar, sanitary napkins, a nail care kit, 10-pack antibacterial wipes, toothpaste and toothbrush, and a gallon Ziploc bag to hold everything together.
As donations increased, they were able to buy beanies, rain jackets and mats from the Army Surplus store to pad sleeping bags. These items were based on recommendations from homeless individuals. And since the pandemic, they’ve included face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer in the kits.
On their way to school, with their mother or older brother George driving them, Jarrod and Joelle deliver about six packages each day to people they’ve never met before. Sometimes they drop off more Joy Care Kits than there are people to receive them, hoping the love can be shared with those they don’t see that day. They know they can’t help everyone, but they want to help as many people as possible.
The most heartfelt items in the Joy Care Kits are the handwritten affirmations that Jarrod and Joelle write, such as “You are being taken care of” or “God bless you.” They fold each note in the Ziploc bag, so that the recipient can easily find this heartwarming surprise,
Jarrod and Joelle started making care packages last year when Jarrod noticed the dense homeless population on their way to school and on weekends. “I was sad,” Jarrod explained. They wanted Oakland’s homeless community to be cared for and to feel important, not forgotten.
Their future plan is to develop a delivery system in Oakland and then expand regionally. The more they fundraise, the more they produce. And the more love they share, Jarrod and Joelle say, the more hope they give.