She and her mother were homeless and had to depend on friends for a place to sleep.
This week, in partnership with La Casa, Rodriguez is leading a clothing and toiletries drive to benefit Shalom Community Center.
“I want to help people,” Rodriguez said. “I thought there is no better way of helping other people than the homeless.”
The drive is running all week and donations can be dropped off at La Casa.
Executive Director at Shalom Forrest Gilmore said their biggest needs are jackets, sweatshirts and sweaters. Backpacks, tents and tarps are also really important, he said.
“These drives provide for basic essentials for daily lives that most of us take for granted,” Gilmore said.
Each March, La Casa themes its programming around activism and advocacy in honor of Latino activist, Cesar Chavez’s birthday, La Casa Director Lillian Caillas-Origel said.
“It’s a reminder that we advocate,” Caillas-Origel said. “If you’re empowered, you should do something, and it can be something as simple as donating some items.”
Earlier in the year, La Casa staged programming focused on Hispanic Heritage Month. Caillas-Origel said celebrating activism in March helps La Casa end the year on a strong note before students check out in April.
“Chavez was a low-income migrant worker with not much education, but look what he did,” Caillas-Origel said. “He led a massive movement, so we do programming to honor him and Latino activists.”
Rodriguez said she loves helping people who experience homelessness, especially after seeing Shalom’s high need.
“I was researching and what touched me the most is how many women and children were involved at Shalom,” Rodriguez said. “I always thought of homelessness as men, but there were women and children and that touched me since I was once homeless when young.”
She said she hopes, with the changing of seasons and people starting their spring cleaning, the drive will collect a large stock of donations.
The drives after winter are a relief for Shalom, Gilmore said.
“Homelessness never takes a holiday,” he said. “Winter is the most dangerous time for homelessness, but people are homeless all year round and their needs come all year round.”
Rodriguez said her goal is not for the drive to collect the most of any drive, but to get as many people involved as possible.
And even though students may not have the financial power to help, Gilmore said they make up for it in social power.
“Students often have large social networks, which can be very helpful,” Gilmore said. “The way they can work and connect with others is great and helps make a big difference.”
Caillas-Origel said she hopes the same and urges students to believe they can make a difference.
“No matter how horrible our condition is, we can all do something,” Caillas-Origel said. “Students will say, ‘I don’t have money’, but we all have something to give. We live in this world. We have to be a part of it and contribute to it.”
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