The Nunbelievable mission to solve the hunger crisis in America continues to gain momentum. We’ve already donated more than one million meals to our impact partners, and we’re targeting 10 million meals by 2023. For every purchase of our wholesome and delicious cookies, we make a contribution toorganizations working on the front lines to end hunger and food insecurity across the country.
But our commitment is about more than just donations. It’s important for us to make a direct impact by volunteering our time. Recently, members of the Nunbelievable team joined forces with student-athletes from the University of Michigan for a day of outreach to the homeless community with our impact partner City Relief.
On a sunny June afternoon, Nunbelievable co-founder Kuda Biza and our summer interns, college students Christopher Burke (Rollins College) and Jose Guzman Vazquez (Williams College), met up with 12 young men and women who came to New York City with the Michigan Athletics Career Center. MACC aims to prepare the students for their future through mentorship, networking, and first-hand experiences. The students were participating in a weeklong visit to meet with alums and executives across a variety of industries.
MACC director Maurice Washington reached out to us to see if they could get a taste of the work Nunbelievable does, to go along with their visits to companies in the worlds of real estate, fashion, media, sports management, and more. We were only too happy to include them in our volunteering efforts and share the value of our mission.
Our group headed to downtown Manhattan to participate in one of City Relief’s “Don’t Walk By” outreach events. Splitting up into four groups, they politely and respectfully approached homeless people to strike up a conversation and offer them supplies, including socks, shirts, underwear, hand sanitizer, and masks. “When the City Relief folks were explaining the directions to all the students and staff, everyone was a little timid,” Christopher says. “But it ended up being a great experience.”
Being mindful of not offending or upsetting the people they approached, it was admittedly a bit awkward. “But as we continued around our path, the students became comfortable after each approach,” Christopher says. “We learned that we needed to be more relaxed. We wanted to learn about who each of these people are as a person and then we would ease into letting them know that we had some things for them if they wanted them. Each conversation as we went on grew longer and longer.”
City Relief makes a point of valuing the humanity in every person they serve, and that was a key takeaway from this experience. “We met this one guy, his name was Bugs, and he started telling us about how he used to work at a pizzeria, but he lost his job because they were letting people go,” Jose says. “So many homeless people really have valuable life experiences and want to get back on their feet, [but] they’ve just been through a lot.”
Our interns and the Michigan group also made sure the people they talked to were aware of the many incredible outreach events that City Relief sponsors. At five locations in New York and New Jersey, they sponsor several mobile soup kitchens every week. Guests can receive a warm meal, socks, hygiene kits, and Life Care Visits (one-on-one referrals to resources for whatever issues they are dealing with).
While not every person that they approached was willing to talk, those that did were grateful for the chance to connect with these young, compassionate people. They were impressed with the Michigan students — athletes from the Wolverines’ powerhouse NCAA Division I teams in sports like football, basketball, soccer, track and field, baseball, softball, and water polo — who were all wearing their school’s signature maize and blue colors.
“This experience and opportunity taught each member of our group the values of humanity and the importance of not looking beyond someone else's situation but reflecting on how minor circumstances affect life outcomes,” MACC director Washington says. “The students now understand that people are not their circumstances, but reflections of a more powerful eco-system that still survives with honor and grace. Thank you for the opportunity to change the minds of so many to see all human beings in their elements.”
At the end of the afternoon, the four groups reassembled to talk about their experience. “My favorite part,” Christopher says, “was when the students gathered together, they talked about how, as student-athletes, they are often put up on pedestal, so doing things like this takes you off that and reminds you how important it is to make an impact and volunteer.”
Many of the activities during their week in New York were with high-powered business people, so this event offered a nice complement. “The students went to a Spotify convention right before our event and they said it was a humbling experience to follow that up with something like this,” Jose says. “They also liked that this was something they had never done before, especially in New York City, where it’s usually just about being a tourist.”
City Relief was grateful not just for our helping hands, but for the ongoing impact the experience could have. “I was encouraged by what the students shared of their experience,” says Chelsea Horvath-Black, Senior Director of Program Services for the organization. “It makes a world of a difference to have our hands and feet extended beyond City Relief and into the wider community to serve our friends on the streets.”
To learn more about City Relief, visit their website at cityrelief.org. And remember, for every Nunbelievable purchase you make, we make a donation to City Relief and our other impact partners. Shop our delicious collection of cookies here.