There are an estimated 500,000 people living homeless in the United States.
Obviously, the problem of homelessness is complex and not easily solved. While there are many shelters throughout the country which provide free room and board for the homeless, big cities still struggle to provide enough resources to help everyone. Still, while major institutions may not be able to solve the problem entirely, some individuals are taking the problem into their own hands.
One such person is 18-year-old Katie Stagliano of Summerville, South Carolina.
Stagliano’s life changed after she planted a seedling in her garden as part of a third-grade class project.
After regularly attending to her plant and protecting it from the local deer population, her cabbage grew to a whopping 40 pounds. After seeing how massive the vegetable was, Stagliano’s mom suggested that they donate the food to Tri County Family Ministries, a non-profit based out of Charleston.
Served with ham and rice, Stagliano’s cabbage made an incredible 275 meals for the homeless.
After seeing what her efforts were able to do for others, Stagliano had a realization.
“I thought, ‘Wow, with one cabbage I helped feed that many people? I could do much more.’”
Stagliano decided to take things up a notch by going to her school to see how they could help her feed even more people. Moved by her desire to change the world, her school donated a plot of land where she could grow more food to help the hungry.
Soon after, Stagliano’s efforts coalesced into a non-profit organization: Katie’s Krops.
Though the journey started when she was only nine years old, Stagliano has held fast to her dream of using her green thumb to help the homeless.
To become a part of her growing non-profit, Stagliano and her staff encourage kids around the country to reach out with their desire to start their own garden. For their efforts, they get funding (a gift card to a local garden supply store), gardening supplies, a growing manual and access to the entire network of Katie’s Krops gardeners. At the end of it all, all the crops produced are donated to local charities and homeless shelters.
As of today, Katie’s Krops has 100 gardens worked by youth volunteers throughout the country in 33 states—though the goal is to be in all 50.
Stagliano’s efforts have been recognized at all levels, even by the Clinton Foundation.
In 2016, she was the recipient of a Clinton Global Citizen Award and even got to spend time with former President Bill Clinton. Above it all though, the journey has not been about recognition but about helping others.
“[I’ve] learned about the face of hunger and the face of homelessness. There could be families just like yours who are struggling with hunger. It’s really altered my perspective.”
Though her mission is ambitious, Stagliano’s non-profit has already grown enormously since it was founded in 2010.
In addition to feeding the needy all around the country, her vision is also teaching children everywhere how to grow their own food. Above all, Katie’s Krops teaches the younger generation to be more aware of the problems in their communities.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re nine or 99, or if you’re a celebrity or if you’re someone just like me. You can start in your community and you can truly make a difference.”
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Following Katie’s example, we can all make a positive impact in the lives of those around us.
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