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'You can still make an impact' | The teens behind the 'Brown Bag Project' took helping their community into their own hands

The teens saw a need and took matters into their own hands to make a difference.


During the pandemic, a group of Round Rock teens set out to make care packages for people experiencing homelessness.

The Brown Bag Project was created by three friends and has now grown into a full-fledged student organization, helping even more people.

"During the pandemic, we realized there was an uprise in the homelessness population and we really wanted to do something to counteract that," said Joy Tando, the Brown Bag Project's co-president and leader of research.

All three of the project's founders are now seniors, but they hope the legacy of what they created lives on when they leave school. They also hope people will see the work they have done and be inspired to step up and make a difference where they can. 

"It's been very empowering to see how much of a difference we can make from something that was so small," said Ester Yu, co-president and PR section leader.

The essentials that go into the Brown Bag Project's care packages include things like socks, non-perishable foods and hygiene products. 

"I think a lot of times, many people will drive down the highways and feel helpless that they can't help them," Yu said. "We really wanted to take matters into our own hands and to see how we could help them ourselves and make a real difference just by taking initiative." 

The group hand-delivers the packages, and its members are able to see firsthand the impact that they have. 

"Normally, you usually like, donate to something, to a charity, and then you don't see where the money is going. But we really wanted to like, see and have [a] firsthand, hands-on impact to the community ourselves," Tando said. 

They also want others to see that impact, going as far as posting a spreadsheet of how they spend their donated money. 

"I think part of the stigma with the people that are homeless is that you don't know where the money is going when you donate to them. And that's why some people are kind of reluctant to, you know, directly donate them cash," said Jocelyn Lee, co-president and leader of finances.

The Brown Bag Project started back in the fall of 2020, with its members handing out bags twice a year. 

"It has been great to see like the look on their faces and how thankful they are to know that they're valued and that they're thought of," Yu said.

The project has even teamed up with other school organizations, including a baking club, to provide hot meals during Thanksgiving. 

"I think there's this misconception that they're kids and they may have these great ideas but to see this in action, to create something that really gets like starts grassroots and spreads so much," the group's advisor, Nancy Arredondo, said. "It makes you feel good that there's so much good that's happening. Even kids can get organized and do something amazing." 

Arredondo said she's impressed by how organized the group is and how much of an impact they've been able to have – something she hopes rubs off on anyone else who hears the story of the Brown Bag Project. 

"I think they definitely are an inspiration to other kids on campus that if you have an idea and you want to make a change, you can," Arredondo said. 

The Brown Bag Project hopes to hand out its next batch of care packages either in late April or early May. 

"You can still make an impact based on what you think is right for the community, and you can make any change as long as you want to," Tando said. 

The founders said they can't do their work without donations. If you'd like to help, the Brown Bag Project has a GoFundMe campaign set up.

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