On Oct. 3, the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project Mask Drive contest came to an end and the organization raised a total of $892, enough money to purchase 4,500 masks.

Over the month of September, YHHAP held a virtual fundraiser via Venmo with the goal of raising money to purchase masks for New Haven homeless shelters and the Yale Community Kitchen. As a part of the fundraiser, the student group hosted a competition that asked each residential college to donate. The college that donated the most money would win the contest. The winning college, Jonathan Edwards, received residential college masks for five randomly selected donors.

“It was important to us that everyone donating was aware of the need for these resources, as well as the tangible difference that they were making by choosing to donate,” Taylor Spadory ’22, one of the organizers for the project, said.

The 14 residential colleges raised a total of $452, with Jonathan Edwards donating a total of $86. The remaining donations came from New Haven community members.

Luis Guevara-Flores ’24, the communications chair for the YHHAP, expressed to the News that this fundraiser in particular is important as it provides masks and other personal protective equipment to those who may not otherwise have access.

“Many of the visitors to the kitchens end up asking for masks as they are required for entry,” Guevara-Flores said. “Having masks readily available allows for more people to be serviced in a safe and healthy way.”

This Venmo fundraiser is one of many major virtual fundraising campaigns that the YHHAP has done since the pandemic began. Earlier this year, they raised $28,000 for COVID relief and another $9,000 for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Though this fundraiser was on a much smaller scale than those larger virtual fundraisers, Suzanne Brown ’23, co-director of YHHAP, says that this fundraiser was exactly what was needed.

“This was a small thing but it was pointed and it did what it needed to do,” Brown said. “It got people involved which is all I can ask for from a YHHAP fundraiser. We got what we aimed for, which was to purchase a large quantity of masks.”

Spadory, who spearheaded this virtual drive, stated that the online nature of the project made it tough to create a fundraiser that was interactive and engaging for the students and community members participating.

She explained to the News that before COVID-19, they would have tables and in-person events for a fundraiser. This year however, the event was primarily advertised on YHHAP social media instead of Cross Campus. To create a more interactive experience, the group decided to make the shift to a contest format between the residential colleges, Spadory said.

“I think the best part of the fundraiser was witnessing the generosity of students and community members,” Spadory said. “When we planned this fundraiser, we definitely did not anticipate such an incredible outcome. I am still surprised and delighted by the amount of masks we will be able to donate.”

According to their mission, the YHHAP is a student-led nonprofit organization dedicated to “alleviating housing and food insecurity in the city of New Haven.” Their focus is on using direct service to “address the root causes of food and housing deprivation.”

Around 22 percent of the 130,000 New Haven citizens are food insecure, with nearly 4,000 of those people identified as currently homeless or at risk for homelessness as of 2016.

YHHAP has, according to Guevara-Flores, offered hands-on opportunities to help the New Haven community. He chose to volunteer for YHHAP because it is “one of the most impactful, direct-service organizations on campus.”

One in four New Haven citizens lives below the poverty line.

Liz Carter | liz.carter@yale.edu