YOUNGSTOWN — Youngstown native Tei’Asha Simms has started Youngstown’s first 24 Hour U-Haul Project which encourages community members to donate new or gently used young adult and adult clothes, jackets, shoes, hygiene products and non-perishables in the next few weeks.
At the end of the drive, items will be collected into a U-Haul within a 24-hour timeframe and distributed the next day.
The Academy for Urban Scholars Youngstown, the main drop off location, began accepting donations March 22 and will continue through April 16. Simms said she is still finalizing other drop off locations.
“I'm just trying to find different locations on each side of town that's neutral for everybody. But right now, 3405 Market St. is the central location,” Simms said.
Donations will be picked up on April 15 and April 16 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
On April 17, there will be a drive-by community giveaway at The Academy for Urban Scholars Youngstown to distribute the collected items. After the event, if any items are leftover Simms said she will compile a community wish list and give away the rest of the items individually, so no donation goes unused.
The Youngstown Police Department’s community police unit is also getting involved by collecting donations for the project in-house.
“It’s a very fun way to give back because it's challenging because there's a goal set to fill up this U-Haul truck. So it's just a fun way to give back and be purposeful in your community,” Simms said.
“When you get the community invested, like, ‘Hey, this is not just my goal, this is our goal like as a community, we should be able to fill this U-Haul up to give back,’ that’s the idea of it that I get, is challenging your community,” she added. “When you [give] the community accountability for taking care of our own, it makes it just more intentional.”
Simms is a program coordinator at The Academy for Urban Scholars Youngstown and runs their 21st Century after-school program. Additionally, she is the founder of My Melanin Speaks, a nonprofit organization that aims to encourage Black men and women to be “the best versions of themselves” through empowerment, education and inspiration.
The idea for the 24-Hour U-Haul Project came from a similar project in Detroit that Simms saw on Instagram that encouraged the community to fill up a truck with items to donate to a shelter.
Simms wanted to take that idea and expand upon it by filling up an entire U-haul and donating the ideas throughout the community, rather than one specific organization.
“I don’t want to just drop it off at a shelter, because sometimes they don't take [donations] or they’re full. I wanted to do mine a little differently and just directly give it back to the community,” she said.
Simms told Mahoning Matters that some of The Academy for Urban Scholars Youngstown's partners are also getting involved.
The African American Male Wellness Initiative will provide mask kits and safety kits to give away on April 17, National Center for Urban Solutions is assisting with the project’s digital media needs and the Mahoning Valley Fatherhood Coalition is aiding the project as well.
“[The community support] makes me know that this is something that I'm supposed to be doing,” Simms said. “When people [can] feel your passion they get passionate about it [and] they want to be involved as well so it's very it's a very lovely feeling.”
For more information on how to donate items or to get involved, reach out to Simms directly at 330-519-1358 or The Academy for Urban Scholars Youngstown at 330-744-9070.