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Charity with a Twist

by Archives April 11, 2007

Around this season, everyone in a community of students shares one thing in common: they are either moving, traveling or cleaning. It’s also at this time that some ostracized, no-longer-used item is found. Whether because they’ve lost their sentimental value, or have lost the capacity to fit their owner, these potentially useful items are packed away, returned to a dark closet and forgotten as rubbish.

These boxes find themselves at a crossroads: will the owner have enough enthusiasm to take them further or will they leave the boxes’ existence to the mercy of a black closet?

Farid Hashemi, the president of the Association of Alms (AOA), found himself at this crossroad last year. His friend Tarek Shalaby said that when Hashemi wanted to send some clothing to the Salvation Army during one of the earthquakes in Asia, he “found it tedious looking up the place,” said Shalaby.

The two realized how much easier it would be to have a broad-based Concordia charity association and decided to create the Association of Alms.

“Most students don’t have cars and most giving is done spontaneously, which is why we think this is such a good idea,” said Shalaby, vice-president and finance executive of the AOA. “As far as I know there is nothing like this at Concordia or in any other university campus. There are many student groups, but these all send donations to specific charities.”

The AOA comes with two unique twists. “Our idea is to find all the charities in Montreal and let people come in and donate and have it sent to whatever charity they want,” said Shalaby.

The second twist to this association is what Hashemi calls the volunteer bank. “For example, if Hema-Quebec is looking for volunteers for one of their blood drives then we would send out an email to ask if anyone would be interested and direct them to the appropriate contacts.”

This system would also work vice-versa by helping eager students get in contact with charities.

The AOA also plans to run blood and clothing drives.

“Anyone can donate and be involved in the drives. Once the website is up, we will create a mailing list for anyone interested. One of our long-term goals is to have friends in other universities open up chapters in their own schools. The more people donating the better.”

“The motto that will appear on the crest is, ‘Quisque beneficiis quos non fecit nocens’. It is a quote by Voltaire which means, ‘Every man is guilty of the good he didn’t do’,” said Shalaby

They also want to start a rating service for members to rate their experiences with the charities. The AOA has already sparked some interest during talks with UNICEF and the Salvation Army and say they will get in contact with major charities soon in order to start printing out pamphlets. The Salvation army has confirmed they will put information on their website and in newsletters and will recognize AOA volunteers. The opening event, planned for the fall, is a clothing drive with proceeds going to the Salvation Army.

The AOA is also working to gain support with the CSU. Outgoing CSU President Khaleed Juma said he believes the AOA will help “streamline the process for those who have wanted to give.”

The newly-elected CSU president Angelica Novoa, said she sees the AOA as a tool that will allow students to increase their impact on social issues in the community.

Novoa said the CSU plans on working closely with the association and providing as much support as they can.

Hashemi said all the paperwork to make the AOA an official club is ready and it’s now up to the CSU to grant them a club title.

“All we need to do is get 50 signatures, which shouldn’t be hard at all. We have all the resources we need to get started,” said Shalaby.

The association is starting out small, with Hashemi’s car. “We will wait for a week or two until we have amassed a decent amount and take them to the charities ourselves. When the business starts to boom we’ll get more friends with cars to help out,” said Shalaby. Hashemi said that through sponsors, the AOA will rent vans to transport in bulk.

So keep those boxes out till the fall and don’t let them fall victim to that closet space.

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