By Julia Dolinger ‘16
It is easy to get wrapped up in our own worlds of school, work, and stress and forget about the less fortunate in our community, but there is a lot that we can do to help them and many lessons that they can teach us. This is one of the many inspiring messages that Elaine Livas, founder and executive director of Project SHARE, presented to us at last week’s Idea Fund meeting. As of 2010, there were close to 15,000 people in Cumberland County living under the poverty line, and Project SHARE aims to give these individuals both short-term food assistance and long-term skills to support themselves independently.
Livas was motivated to start Project SHARE back in 1985 by Cumberland County residents who were continually dismissed by the general public as a problem. She explained that the initiative originated from the combination of a perceived need in the area and her own core beliefs. “No one should have to go hungry” she asserted, “every person has value and is a legitimate member of the community.” Subsequently, Livas set up a makeshift office in the trunk of her Honda and Project SHARE was born. When she needed more space, she moved into the Molly Pitcher Hotel, a building that housed many of the Carlislians whom the project assisted. She described these individuals as to Project Share’s development. They compelled her to see the importance of persistence and resilience in the pursuit of an idea.
Initially, Project SHARE helped community members with everyday tasks that they were unable to complete themselves, such as filling prescriptions, finding furniture for their homes, or moving. Livas soon focused primarily on food dispersal, noting that “the problem of people not having enough to eat in our community, in our nation, and in our world is something that I feel really strongly about.” She did not want to simply give out food, however, because she felt that this would prevent people from becoming independent. It is important to Livas to show those in need that they are capable and that they have value. As a result, the Personal Energy Transportation (PET) element was added to Project SHARE. In addition to receiving food, Carlisle residents participate in the construction of hand-cranked wheelchairs that are given to people who are immobile across the globe. At the workshop of the current Project SHARE site they are able to learn new skills and revel in the satisfaction of helping others less fortunate than themselves. Livas explained that “People who feel they are at the bottom come and build PETs, and they undergo an internal transformation. They are taught to make something that transforms [the lives of] others. PET teaches need.”
Project SHARE’s current goals are to increase PET production, fundraising efforts, and other programs that teach skills to volunteers and those in need. Livas wants to host a welding class at the workshop, which is the only step in the PET production process that does not occur in-house. Additionally, she wants to provide lessons in cooking, food preservation, and gardening. A long-term goal of the PET project is to organize a dispersal trip to a developing country for those who have demonstrated a commitment to the project. Livas is optimistic that community members who rely on Project SHARE will realize through the PET initiative that they can provide assistance to others in the world too.
Not only did Livas provide us with information about Project SHARE, she also gave us insights into success. She emphasized that the best ideas are “those things that you go to bed and wake up passionate about.” Passion is a large part of the success of Project SHARE, because it lead Livas to be persistent with her efforts even when she did not know if they would produce a good outcome. Initially, Carlisle residents were resistant to Livas and her organization, but today it assists over 1000 families each month! This positive example motivates our work with Idea Fund in the Dickinson community and show us that success is possible despite obstacles!
Want to get involved with Project SHARE?
The distribution center and warehouse is located on 5 North Orange Street (by CPYB and the Children’s center)
Volunteers are always welcomed at all skill levels!
Help out with food distribution; in the PET warehouse with sawing, painting and nuts and bolts; in the kitchen, with gleaning on local farms, and much more!
Visit the website: http://www.projectshare.net/action or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.