In preparation for our upcoming workshop Lifehack: Live Inspired we interviewed some Bay Area professionals who inspire us to go beyond the daily grind and use our time to make a difference in the community.

Kelsey Lythcott is the Clinical Systems Project Manager at UCSF Medical Center, an MBA student at Santa Clara University, and a passionate believer in helping the homeless. With one email, Kelsey organized a clothing drive for SF’s homeless – inspiring us that a with small amount of time and money you can make a bigger difference than you think.

Our interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How did you get the idea to do a clothing drive?

My friend and I were talking one day about trying to serve the homeless in some kind of way. They’ve always been a population that’s been on my heart, and as a student I’m all about
finding ways to serve people by spending little to no money. I think about what’s sustainable and asking people to spend money all the time is not easy to sustain. So I emailed 20 different families that I knew, because I figured families with kids always accumulate stuff throughout the years.

I mainly wanted to collect jackets and bags, but ended up getting all kinds of wardrobe stuff.

Was it hard to collect all the items?

Over about two months I would just collect things when I saw these different families. I would just pop open my trunk and started storing stuff in my car.

Finally, I got a small group of us organized and at 5 pm on a Friday, right after work, we gave everything out.  A local guy dressed pretty fabulously came up and asked what we were doing and was kind enough to give us some pointers. He told us to put stuff on a ledge so they could be seen better. Soon after, people just began to flock. We were in the center of a small mob.

People were asking for socks, shoes, jackets, blankets, and bags. I wasn’t sure about some of the items people had donated, like pillow cases and sheets, but those went too! Two months worth of collecting items was gone in 15 minutes. We had no idea the need was so big.

There were men and women, there was this one guy that was so cool, he said ‘my friends call me Cobra.’ He threw his arms out and posed for us. He was just so grateful and happy to have his new coat.

The peacefulness of everyone and hearing so many thank yous was overwhelming. I think they just appreciated most that they were considered, that we were there for them, not to sightsee.

What inspired you to serve the homeless?

The homeless have always just been on my heart and it’s been a need that I’ve always been drawn to personally and always had a heart for.

Can you give us 3-5 steps to do what you did?

First, pay attention to what population of people move you.

Then, figure out why they move you. For example, I like to eat, and I want others to eat too and eat good food! Not just soup. So we also collected, prepared and gave out food.

Third, just start something. I didn’t know where this was going to go. I had this stuff for a couple months and I didn’t know what was going to happen. So I just sent an email. And really, it was so simple. I just picked stuff up, put it in my trunk and drove up to give it away.

Will you do this again?

Definitely.

For more inspiration, don’t miss our upcoming professionals workshop Lifehack: Live Inspired.