Amanda Donates, the charity run by our very own paralegal Amanda Lyons, has reached its one-year anniversary! To commemorate this great achievement, we chatted with her about her experience has been like.
What has it been like to run a charity for the first time?
It has definitely been a challenging balance! Not only am I a paralegal at Hach & Rose, LLP, but I’m also going to law school. It’s been tough, but it’s such an important cause and I always find time to make it happen.
I’ve also been trying to figure out the best route to take Amanda Donates in. We’ve recently decided to start the process of filing as a 501c3, which would register us officially as a nonprofit and grant us tax-exempt status. It will open a lot of doors for us, which is great.
What is it like to serve the community?
Making personal connections with the community is my favorite thing about Amanda Donates. Over the past year, I’ve been working hard to figure out how I can make the biggest impact. When we first started, we changed the location of our food pantry every month so we could donate to different areas. But we found that to be difficult; since we were never in the same place consistently, the community couldn’t get used to relying on us. Additionally, once quarantine ended and businesses started to open again, moving around became more difficult because we now need permits to host our events. With everything shut down that wasn’t a problem, but it’s not the same anymore. So I decided to settle on one location, P.S. 124 in Brooklyn, for the time being. Now we see the same people each month and we can really start to get to know them. Being in the same place we’ve been able to better serve the community, because I know what their particular needs are. Also, since we’re there each month, the local businesses are starting to take an interest in what we’re doing, and we can build relationships with them.
All of this to say, the learning curve we’ve experienced over the past year has led to some great changes. Staying in one place has really allowed us to get to know the neighborhood.
What do you enjoy most about the effort and time you have dedicated to giving back?
Seeing the impact that Amanda Donates has had on the community is amazing to experience. I’ve gotten to hear firsthand stories from members of the community and really learn about what they’re going through. I also love that being in one location each month means that people can rely on us. I can tell a new visitor that they can count on us being here at the same place next month, so they can plan to rely on our donations. This also helps us to make an even greater impact, because they can tell their friends and family that we’re here.
What is your mission statement?
Amanda Donates is organized and operated exclusively for charitable purposes. More specifically, Amanda Donates is dedicated to empowering change in surrounding communities by providing goods and services to those that are hungry, facing hardship, or are simply down on their luck.
What have you accomplished over the past year?
It has been an incredibly productive year! So far we’ve accomplished 10 food pantries, supporting our community with essential food and supplies. In addition, we’ve been involved in fundraisers, school supply donation drives, toy drives for the holiday season, monetary donations, and more. I’m so proud of everything we’ve been able to achieve so far, and I can’t wait to do even more this year.
What are your plans for this year?
Soon we should get approved as an Incorporated organization, and after that we can start on the application as a 501c3. This should really open some doors for us for corporate donations, because many places are unable to donate unless the organization is a 501c3. We have a significant amount of donations from generous individuals that allow me to run this pantry every month, but it wouldn’t be enough to serve more than one community. Hopefully we can develop relationships with larger corporations who could supplement what we offer. I’d also love to develop a relationship with a wholesaler who could deliver directly to either my home or to our pantry. At the moment I’m doing all of the shopping myself, which limits me to how many things I can get at one time, and my budget would go farther if I could get the supplies at wholesale prices. All of this will hopefully lead to being able to host multiple locations each month, so that we can serve more communities.
Where do you see Amanda Donates going in the future?
It’s really important to me to serve the NYC area, because there are so many people in need here, so I always want Amanda Donates to have roots in NYC and serving this community. But in the future, I’d love to think about serving other countries as well. My goal is to bring Amanda Donates to places we can make a difference on the ground, helping people one-on-one as we always have.
When is your next event, and how can people get involved?
Our next event is on May 15 at P.S. 124 in Brooklyn! We can always use more donations and volunteers. The most useful items are shelf-stable things like rice, pasta, cereal, canned soup, or breakfast foods like oatmeal. Also, microwaveable prepared meals are great as well. We always get a mixture of people who either don’t have full kitchens or have no kitchen access at all, so we really need items that people can eat even without appliances.
We also always need volunteers! If you’d like to get involved in any way, you can contact me at (347) 479-8266, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.