Not sure how unique this idea is but I do like it a lot. I have a recently homeless friend I see at the coffee shop. He always seems to be able to pay his own but reality is he has no home. I have considered taking him in but my lease has a two day restriction for guests and it runs out in two weeks anyway, so I must deal with my own relocation.
You know, one of the nicest things you can ever do for me is buy me a cup of coffee, and you can go the extra mile by adding a lovely pastry. Coffee may seem a luxury to bestow on the homeless but we all need breakfast or the like as a staple of daily living. And coffee shops like Starbucks now have light luncheon items, too.
So I got this cool idea for how to relieve some of my friend’s stresses.
A gift card from Starbucks. You can give this to the homeless person or have the barista do it so that you remain anonymous. Regardless, what you end up doing is empowering the homeless person in a new way. And Starbucks may even have a gift for you depending on how much you initially load on the card or through the card Rewards program.
I put $5 on, no big deal, with intent to add. But the beauty is your gift doesn’t have to end there. Once the card is given and you walk away, the recipient in this case has $5 to spend on something to eat. Not on drugs. Not on cigarettes. Not on booze. On sustenance.
Register the card at the Starbucks website before you give it as a gift. What you can then do is add to it as you wish through your account dashboard. Suddenly you are in control of the daily eating assurance for another helpless human being. If it seems like too much responsibility just realize they have that much less in their day of need through whatever little you add to the card, yet anything you give is still better than the nothing they start with.
This is cool, too. If you have your own card – they cost nothing – you can load money onto it, get any reward for doing so, and then go into your online account and transfer as much as you want onto the gift card for the homeless.
So, tired of giving to a church that hates gays or one that propagates and protects its own pedophiles? Tired of wondering where your charity really goes when you ‘feed the children?’ The buck stops here because you know where your giving goes with this act. You are feeding someone, brightening their day, and showing true charity.
You buy the card. You put some money on it. You go online and activate it. You give it to a needy person. You login to the online account where the card is and maintain your level of giving as long as you desire. And someone on this planet benefits from your generosity until able to get back on her/his feet.
It’s a hard system for someone to abuse. There is no middleman. Sure they could buy their friends a round of croissants, but really…. Should you feel buying gets out of control you are in charge, you can curb it. Or you can sit back and be thrilled that your friend is enjoying something s/he never expected as a relief in the day allowing her/him to focus on coping with the other pressures that have rendered her/him to the street.
Keep in mind they could lose the card and the wrong person may find it. But don’t let that be an excuse to keep you from helping where there is need. Limit your card funding in a systematic decrease or establish some other method that ensures your giving is not an abettment or endless reservoir if you feel such need. Don’t think the places you currently give to have less overhead or cause for abuse, yet you trust to steadily give.
There are other rewards in this act as well. Perhaps you may even be able to claim a tax benefit, etc. You will come up with your own. Life is good. Give thanks and you’ll receive them.
UPDATE: Had a chat with the regional manager this after – 04.27.12 – and he made a great point that once the person in need eventually gets on her/his feet, s/he can start loading the card at the register. The increase on card balance would signal the giver who checks the account online that help is no longer needed.