A group of Eastside Catholic students want to provide homeless youth with something more than basic necessities.
Sophomores Matthew Franke and Paul Taylor and freshman Ayden Hector run Bbox, a student-led operation that provides birthday bags for homeless youth.
Short for Birthday Box, Bbox has partnered with Kirkland homeless shelter Friends of Youth, delivering 12 bags each month for the youth staying at the shelter. Bags include toiletry items as well as snacks, flash drives and gift cards.
Matthew Franke said Bbox targets homeless youth because it’s a group the Bbox volunteers feel they can identify with and that they can help in their own unique way.
“Instead of just giving them the essentials, because a lot of people do that, we focus on trying to put something normal in their life,” he said.
Franke and Hector inherited the group from their older brothers, who created the organization in 2012. Andrew Franke, now a freshman at Notre Dame, created Bbox as a freshman at Eastside Catholic with school friends Jared Hector and Samantha Haubil. He told the Reporter the group was inspired after learning about teen homelessness in a social issues class.
“We were all friends since kindergarten and we decided we wanted to do something to help this issue,” Andrew Franke said. “We researched and we found the shelter Friends of Youth and we knew we wanted to do something to help them.”
Andrew Franke said the idea of growing up a teenager, which can be difficult in and of itself, while also being homeless was enlightening to him.
“Obviously, there are a lot of services that help these kids, like Friends of Youth and other food banks, but pretty much all of those provide basic necessities,” Andrew Franke said. “I guess Bbox’s goal was to give these children something more, something beyond the basic necessities, to make them feel wanted and appreciated in society.”
To run Bbox, the students hold fundraisers throughout the year and place donation bins around their school campus. Their busy time of year is in the fall, with a fair amount of fundraising taking place during the football season.
Once a month, the group will hold a work party to put the bags together. Only 12 youth at a time stay at Friends of Youth for up to 30 days, so different kids at the shelter receive Bbox bags.
“We always want to reach out to as many kids as possible,” Matthew Franke said. “We’re hoping they can just feel a sense of normalcy in their lives and not just focus on their homelessness.”
Legacy is important with the Bbox group. The members say the organization will continue as long as people are willing to put in the work.
“It’s important to keep what our brothers started going,” Ayden Hector said.
“It feels good to do something that I normally wouldn’t do,” Matthew Franke said. “I do a lot of volunteer work, but this is something on my own accord that my family set up and it feels really special because it’s super personal.”