You know about random acts of kindness, but have you heard of Students Promoting Art Through Random Acts of Kindness?
The Drexel student organization, also known as “SPARK,” creates and sells quirky handmade crafts. Think lipstick dyed with crayons, bracelets made from tee shirts and art created from plastic spoons.
So that’s the art part; the kindness stems from the club’s promise to donate all of its proceeds to charities like Philly PAWS, Philadelphia’s largest no-kill shelter for abandoned animals.
“We want to give people the opportunity to create and learn new crafts at Drexel, and foster a sense of community around crafting through our weekly sessions and other events,” said Maureen Burnside, the president of the organization and a sophomore chemical engineering student in the College of Engineering. “We also want to raise money for charity in a fun, easy way.”
The group of 15 or so core members, plus the students who drop by for specific events, come together to create crafts and baked goods, which are usually easy enough for beginners. Most of the inspiration traces to social media posts from people all over the world. So while the crafts and crafting are planned, there is an explanation for the “random” part of the group’s name.
“It is random in the sense that these charities do not come to us for fundraising, but we choose them after careful selection and input from various sources,” said Donna Zhang, a sophomore environmental engineering student and treasurer of the club.
This year, the organization decided to devote all funds to a specific nonprofit each term. For fall 2014, the group chose Philly PAWS after a survey showed students wanted to donate to a nonprofit that dealt with animal welfare and care.
“We raised a little more than $200 just from holding weekly crafting sessions and special holiday bake or craft sales,” said Tiffany Liao, a senior materials science major and the organization’s event coordinator.
In addition to the one-nonprofit-for-term rule, the group also has teamed up with other organizations for philanthropic events. This term, the group teamed with Crochet for Comfort to host “Handmade for the Homeless,” a competition in which students crochet or knit cozy articles of clothing for Warming Philly, a nonprofit that collects apparel for those in need. Additionally, SPARK co-sponsored and provided “de-stress” crafts to Dragons After Dark’s Breakfast At Midnight event during finals week last term.
The mission to provide fun ways to express creativity and help the community has been a driving force in SPARK’s history since it was founded in 2012.
"It was a spark of inspiration that formed this club,” Drexel 2014 graduate Kenneth Huang said. “I wanted to try to reduce the distance between science and design majors in the campus community by giving artists from every scope a chance to both learn new styles and give back to the community.”
After the success of its first term with new goals, SPARK is currently choosing the next charity for next term. If you have a suggestion for a new philanthropy, future craft workshops or opportunities for co-sponsorships, contact the organization at email@example.com.