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Class project inspires real change

COC students work out of the classroom to raise funds for shelter

Posted: February 1, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 1, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Tim Waschak speaks about his project which benefited the Bridge To Home shelter in Saugus recently. (Jonathan Pobre/The Signal)

 

Wearing a clean suit, 19-year-old College of the Canyons student Tim Waschak stood in the dark outside the Santa Clarita Valley homeless shelter’s bungalows and its chain-link fences.

A line of about 10 people trailed the edge of one bungalow. Waschak circled the property, looked around and contemplated joining the queue.

Eyeing Waschak curiously, the people in line joked about the oddity of his well-kept clothes and directed him past the line with some chuckles.

Waschak entered Bridge to Home, the Santa Clarita Valley’s winter homeless shelter, for the first time that cold January night with a check in hand.

“Seeing everyone out in the line made it a real problem for me,” Waschak said, recalling his initial visit during a recent interview.

“It was 7 o’clock at night and 40 degrees,” he said. “I can only imagine how cold it could be later.”

It was a fall semester 2012 communications class that eventually led Waschak to the shelter. As part of a class assignment team project, his group chose a task and goal, conceptualized a plan to achieve the goal and presented it to the class.

His team chose to plan a project to fundraise for the homeless shelter.

But at the end of the process, Waschak and his fellow classmates asked themselves, Why not put it into action?

“We might as well get something accomplished,” Waschak said he recalls thinking.

A lifelong Valencia resident, Waschak wanted to support his community, he said. Saugus resident Gabriella Garzon, 47, had participated in fundraisers for the shelter before, but she had never visited.

One member of the five-person-group dropped out. Once the grades were off the table, implementing the plan became more of a challenge.

“Everyone has different ways of communicating,” noted Waschak, a business management major.

Devising a plan for a 50/50 raffle, the group decided half the funds would go to the shelter and half the funds would go to the raffle winner as a cash prize incentive. Regardless of the fundraising outcome, the winner would receive a minimum of $250 donated by the Waschak family.

They sold tickets for $5 each to students, family members and co-workers, totaling about $1,500.

When Waschak’s professor drew the winner — the College of the Canyons Honor Society — the club decided to take only the minimum $250 prize from the Waschaks, donating back to the cause the entire $1,500 pot.

Waschak consulted with the shelter manager and decided a $1,000 check and about $500 of donated toiletries would best fit the shelter’s needs.

The night Waschak toured the shelter, he watched as clients were turned away because the shelter had reached capacity. The second time he visited, Waschak recognized several people and watched a family in the mess hall.

“I can see how hard that has to be to explain to your kids why they’re not sleeping in a bed or a house,” Waschak said. “You don’t know what happened to them, either.”

During Garzon’s visit, she watched as about 15 volunteers, most of them high school-aged, served food in the kitchen.

“There were so many people that they didn’t fit inside the kitchen. It was very impressive,” Garzon said.

Both have plans to volunteer during future meal programs.

“Hopefully, we can do some kind of fundraiser every winter,” Waschak said. “It was so rewarding.”

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