When shooting for the stars, you do not aim for just one — and a new nonprofit is not stopping at benefiting just one cause, either.
Haley Potter, a sophomore at Slippery Rock University, co-founded a nonprofit in December called Open Hearts For All with her friend and fellow sophomore Evan Markowitz.
“We realize that not everyone is as fortunate as we are,” Potter said. “We are blessed enough to get a college education and have a roof over our heads, but understand that that isn’t the case for all.”
Rather than one focused cause, the organization tackles many areas of need, including mental health, homelessness and abuse, among others.
“We strive to help as many causes as possible,” Potter said. “Each of the board of directors has a specific focus and everyone else jumps on board and helps plan ideas for each cause.”
Sometimes the group bows to a timely issue.
At an event Monday, the group raised money through pizza sales at a shop in Pittsburgh. Some of the proceeds will go to the victims and families who suffered during the recent Parkland, FL, school shooting. The volunteers received almost $800 and donated $320 to the school’s GoFundMe account.
The remaining funds will be put toward the next event or cause.
Potter said each member of the governing board picks a cause they believe in, and they discuss it as a group to find different solutions and garner different perspectives on how to help.
“We are a very close-knit group of friends, which makes the way we run things that much better,” she said. “We care so much about each other, and in return care about each other’s specific causes and are able to put our all into what we do.”
Markowitz said he takes a special interest in mental health.
“I feel that there is not enough awareness being given to it,” Markowitz said. “It just breaks my heart every time I see on the news that a person, especially a young person, has taken their own life.”
In addition to his efforts with Open Hearts, he has plans to give a speech at his alma mater, Franklin Regional High School, about mental illness to raise more awareness.
Markowitz said the organization will make a bigger impact as it becomes better known.
“We have team members from a number of different schools that help spread the word about Open Hearts and recruit businesses to sponsor us,” Markowitz said.
The nonprofit has close to 30 members with five board members, five Slippery Rock University students and two University of Pittsburgh students on its board of directors.
Markowitz said the group’s recruiting efforts span many colleges across Western Pennsylvania with aims to attract attention farther.
“The goal in terms of recruitment is really to spread the word about us and to fundraise for all of our causes so that they can be as successful as possible,” he said. “I want us to be able to branch out into all of Pennsylvania and into other states as well, so that we can help as many people as we possibly can.”
He said building their numbers will only bolster their abilities to reach many people, and they plan to use their studentship to their advantage.
“I wanted to make a difference in any way possible with my closest friends,” Markowitz said. “It’s very unique that we are all college students. It gives us the opportunity to expand our purpose, which is to help change as many lives as we can.”