Shaivi Shah, 16, of Rancho Santa Margarita, California, a junior at Tesoro High School, responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by assembling and donating more than 4,600 sanitation kits to 21 different homeless shelters, food pantries and rescue missions across southern California, and inspired similar efforts in other parts of the country. When the pandemic began, “I was overwhelmed by everything,” she said. But “I didn’t just want to sit in my room and whine about all the ways my life would change. Instead, I wanted to be someone who utilized their extra free time to help people.” After hearing a speech by Gov. Gavin Newsom about the vulnerability of people experiencing homelessness, Shaivi decided to create sanitation kits for them.
She began by going to a local store and purchasing enough hand soap, lotion, hand sanitizer and face masks to make 50 kits, which she took to a local shelter. At that point she realized that she would have to raise money if her project was to continue, so she set up a GoFundMe and reached out to the media to publicize her efforts. It took a while, but finally her project caught the eye of a reporter and after a story appeared, donations skyrocketed. So far she has raised more than $19,000 from nearly 500 donors. In addition, volunteers in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Colorado and Florida have adopted her project in order to serve the homeless in their communities.