By Abigail S. ‘24 and Jaya K. ‘24
Upon seeing the increased need for donations to her local food pantry’s annual Ride for Food fundraiser, Karla S. ’24 was determined to help out in any way she could. Over the years, Karla has donated to several organizations she is passionate about, but she has never done something quite like her recent project. Karla’s family even sponsored the Needham Food Pantry, as the organization was unable to accept food donations themselves anymore due to the new COVID-19 safety precautions. During this unique time, the food pantry decided that they’d have people donate money directly or have fundraising projects through their organization. A big part of this year’s fundraiser in partnership with Three Squares New England was that “the one-day ride has morphed into an event of individual activities: Off the Beaten Path.” Through this, Karla thought to combine something she is passionate about, technology, with helping out those in need in her community.
Karla has taken several Winsor STEM programs and other summer camps involving 3-D printing throughout the years, and recently purchased her own 3-D printer. Karla told The Banner that while “I was building the 3-D printer, it just came into mind that I could print some things [for the fundraiser], so I started researching and there was an article about the plastic door-opener/button pusher safety gadgets.” Karla also remarked that these gadgets may help reduce the spread of COVID through touch. She explained that “through a couple of conversations, I created the idea to 3-D print them and hand them out in order to fundraise.” Karla was ready to get to work, but she ran into a few bumps in the road. The initial design didn’t work out, and she had to find new 3-D designs to print. “ Karla noted that “at one point, I lost the file. It was a whole mess, and I had to troubleshoot the entire 3-D printer so many times because it would not work.” Stil, Karla was determined to print her safety gadgets to help her community.
After a long wait, her gadgets were printed. She then needed to move on to step two: selling them. Karla shared that “first, it was just through my family and our friends, like having my mom spread [the message] around her work.” After she realized her profits would increase by widening her range of customers, she decided to make a poster so that she could “do a door-to-door kind of thing, but you can’t really have a conversation safely under these circumstances, so [she] would just leave it in neighbors’ mailboxes.” Another tactic was “to yell what the project was” from a distance and explain to them how to go about filling out her form. A major challenge Karla ran into was communication. “It’s hard to go from word of mouth if no one is seeing you, you’re not having any conversations.” Karla also helped her community by donating the safety gadgets directly to people she thought might need them or appreciate them. “At one point, I made about 21 for my dad’s residents at the Boston Children’s Hospital because he brought his in one day, and they all wanted them… and they were at a high-risk place.” Through this small donation, Karla made a big impact on these children’s lives.
From the approximately 40 gadgets she sold and 21 she donated to the sick children, Karla raised $550, a ten percent increase over her initial goal. Reflecting on her experience, Karla said she “didn’t get many donations in the beginning; at first it was just donating to the hospital, donating to the residents– I didn’t have very high expectations for myself.” Because of her many difficulties she faced along the way, Karla hadn’t expected to meet her target donation amount. She admitted “I didn’t think I could reach my goal, but I did, by 110%, so honestly I was just looking… to help some people.” Karla hopes that people will learn that it is important to use “whatever you have around to donate and help other people.” Small acts of kindness like Karla’s are very easy; all it takes is passion to help others. She recognizes that “3-D printing and raising money for a food pantry are very different things, but it worked, and [she] was able to raise money… and it was just the act of printing the gadgets out and spreading the word to donate; that was a pretty simple thing to do, and it was surprising how anyone could do it. There’s always someone or some organization that you can help and support, so finding any way to do that is really important.”