OwlCrowd donors have ’immediate impact’

Through its ninth campaign, the university is sponsoring six projects this year.

The Philadelphia Aphasia Community at Temple, a program that facilitates free therapy and support groups for adults, often struggles to afford the resources it needs, including up-to-date technology.

The groups are for adults with aphasia — a communication disorder caused by brain damage, often after one experiences a stroke — who otherwise may not have the support they need.

“We have groups members who have told us they come here, they talk with us and then they go home and that’s all the conversation they have for the week,” said Gayle DeDe, the director of PACT. “They literally don’t talk to another person.”

“Because we don’t charge our group members and we don’t really have a budget, we’ve gotten creative in some ways,” she added.

This year, DeDe hopes the costs of running the groups will be offset by funding from OwlCrowd, the university’s crowdfunding program supported by alumni, donors, students and their families.

OwlCrowd’s ninth campaign began on March 20 and benefits six projects. As of Monday, PACT has raised $3,237, Engineers Without Borders has raised $1,855, the Veterans Honor Scholarship has raised $1,485, the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing has raised $1,810, Ambler EarthFest Transportation Angels has raised $3,454 and Books for Dunbar Elementary has raised $2,193. OwlCrowd aims to fund all six projects in 45 days before the campaign ends on May 4.

Wayne Green, who attends PACT’s groups, said some of his favorites are the music group, the spirituality group and Finding the Words: Authors with Aphasia, which pairs people with aphasia with speech-language-hearing students to write short books.

“I like the [recreational therapy] group too because I get to talk to everybody and have a good time,” Green said. “They help me.”

PACT is currently at 64 percent of its $5,000 goal.

Blake Piper, the assistant director of programs and initiatives, helps manage OwlCrowd by selecting the projects for each campaign, maintaining the website and promoting projects to alumni. He said when groups apply for funding through OwlCrowd, the selection committee chooses causes based on the likelihood of success and whether the project will have a direct, specific impact.

“They fall in line with Temple’s mission and benefit the community as a whole or give students an educational opportunity that they otherwise wouldn’t have,” Piper said.

For example, Piper said Engineers Without Borders aims to send engineering students to a small town in Peru for a project that will provide clean drinking water to about 30 people.

Temple’s chapter of honor society Phi Beta Kappa will make a tangible impact closer to home, Piper said. The group wants to raise $3,000 to provide a book to every student at Dunbar Promise Academy on 12th Street near Montgomery Avenue.  A $5 donation can buy three books for students to take home, Piper said.

“Our goals are first and foremost to get books into the hands and homes and hearts of young kids,” said Matt Wray, a sociology professor and the president of Phi Beta Kappa. “That’s really core to anyone’s intellectual development, is that they have access to books.”

“The truth is that’s a fairly privileged, middle-class benefit, to have a home full of books,” Wray added. “It’s not true of every home in America. It’s not true of every home in Philadelphia.”

The Ambler EarthFest Transportation Angels increases young students’ access to educational tools. EarthFest, an annual Earth Day celebration at Ambler Campus, introduces kindergarten through 12th-grade students from a five-county radius to about 90 exhibitors like the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Franklin Institute and Temple’s landscape architecture & horticulture department.

The Transportation Angels help defray the cost of getting to the “giant science fair” by funding buses for schools that otherwise could not afford the trip, said Jim Duffy, a public relations coordinator at Ambler Campus who helps plan EarthFest.

“I think to really connect student to the idea that the environment is important, that STEM education is important, you really have to connect with them young,” Duffy said. “Basically empowering them to learn what they can do to protect and preserve the planet for the future.”

At Main Campus, computer and information sciences instructor Claudia Pine-Simon is using OwlCrowd for the fourth year in a row to bring female students to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference in Orlando, Florida. OwlCrowd provides $1,000 scholarships to help cover travel and registration costs.

Pine-Simon said three of the 10 students who attended last year’s  conference in Houston used OwlCrowd scholarships.

Pine-Simon said the conference is “life-changing” for the students who attend, many of whom receive on-the-spot interviews and even job offers from companies like Apple, Microsoft and Google.

“When you see 18,000 successful women in this field, it can’t help but change your outlook about not only yourself, but the world,” she said. “[The students] all come back like you’re on top of the world and you’re going to do so much and you’re so energized in so many ways.”

Piper said by donating to one of the six projects, alumni, students, parents and friends can make a difference.

“I think that every single one of the projects is really going to have an immediate impact and really benefit something specific and tangible,” he said. “[Donors] can really know that they are having an impact.”

Erin Moran can be reached at erin.moran@temple.edu or on Twitter @ernmrntweets.

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