Photo: Drew Paglia ’22 (left) and Heather.
3/24/2021 – The Lawrenceville School News
When the pandemic began a year ago, many of us hit the “pause” button on our lives as we tried to figure out how to stay safe and adapt to a new normal. Not Drew Pagilia ’22 and his sister, Heather! They created the non-profit 5Help to help frontline workers in their fight against COVID-19 and have expanded their efforts to include a score of new projects, including stocking food pantries, holiday gifts for kids, gifts and cards for seniors, shoes for micro-entrepreneurs, collecting winter coats … the list goes on. One of their latest projects is helping a 79-veteran who was burned in a fire at his farm.
Drew tells us how “helping people has become a way of life” with 5Help – and how each of us can help make a difference during these trying times.
What was your motivation for founding 5Help?
We saw our small businesses, front-line heroes, and seniors struggling and we were compelled to take action, no matter how small. We didn’t want to just sit back and do nothing especially with all the extra time we now had. We focused on using an established GoFundMe platform to try to raise funds locally, which we quickly launched into our own website.
[A year later] we have an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit that has achieved a Gold Seal of Transparency with Guidestar, and are now able to accept donations on Facebook and Instagram.
Your idea of collecting a large number of small donations took off! Why do you think the concept resonated with so many people?
We [created]$5 Challenges by asking for donations of $5 and asking [donors] to try to get five friends to do the same because most people can afford to give $5. We helped them understand that $5 from a lot of people would make a difference and have a huge impact. Most people want to help, but feel that they don’t have an ability to, especially when they are trapped at home or don’t have the financial resources to do so. We provided an avenue to show them that everyone, even teens and kids, had the ability to take action and help for just $5.
You began by collecting donations to assist frontline workers and have expanded to a score of new projects. Why did you decide to expand your efforts? How do you evaluate each project and decide to take it on?
Helping people has become our way of life. The energy and personal satisfaction of knowing you helped someone in need and made a difference in their life drives us to continue our mission no matter how tired we are. We always look for opportunities to help by following the news and current events. We also now have people contacting us [for assistance]. We always try to help in some way [and] we try to focus on helping those who are in crisis. To be honest, we will really try to help anyone who contacts us.
We created a free platform on ourwebsite that allows anyone to start their own fundraiser to help a person or organization of their choice. Our goal is to incentivize and truly rally a movement of volunteers who want to help others with contests and promotions and by giving free tools and resources so they can jump right in and help. You have a chance to win prizes while helping others and you can’t get better than that. You’ve worked with and supported over 20 government agencies and nonprofits. Have you met with any skepticism from adults since you and your sister are so young? If so, what tips might you have for other teens interested in following in your footsteps?
It’s actually been the opposite. We have received an outpouring of gratitude from the organizations and individuals we support who have been shocked that as teens we have taken a leadership role during a very tough time in history and stepped in to help. When you see a homeless person look into your eyes and say, “Thank you, God bless you for what you are doing,” you know you are doing something right.
Helping others is contagious. One good deed seems to follow another and surrounding yourself with people who want to volunteer and help others creates a snowball effect that in the end is awe inspiring.
The biggest tip is to take action and know that every single person is capable of doing something. It all starts small and it takes a lot of work, but those small successes add up. In our case, it is thousands of people at this point as we approach our first anniversary on March 24, 2021. You never know how your one small action will potentially change the life of another person.
What is the 5Help Random Acts of Kindness Campaign?
We will be launching our Campaign in April because it is Autism Awareness month. You can enter to win a free Google Hub Max, Murder Mystery Games, and more by sharing your random act of kindness on our social media. We hope this will show that every action, no matter how small to help or be kind, is just as important and meaningful as something big.
What is the HOPE Network?
The HOPE Network stands for “Help One Person Everyday” and is a network of over 400 members that my sister (Heather) and I founded in December from a think tank we joined. We made such great friends [and] we wanted to make sure we stayed in touch and focused on gratitude and the concept of helping one person every day. Our 5Help efforts resonated and garnered the attention of authors, speakers, doctors, and entrepreneurs who wanted to be part of our network of supporting and helping others. We have other groups that are open to all, including our main 5Help.org Team (appx. 600 members), 5Help Adopt-a-Grandparent (appx. 200 members), 5Help Adopt-a-Buddy (appx.100 members), and our newest, 5Help Adopt-a-Veteran (appx. 50 members). I welcome anyone from Lawrenceville to join and be a part of our movement of volunteers. You can just observe or be part of the action.
You’ve gotten well-deserved recognition from New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney and a phone call from New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy – what was that like?
That recognition actually extends to the President of the United States! Getting recognized has been great, but has never been our goal since all we wanted to do from Day One is to help others. The recognition mainly came for my sister, Heather, who was chosen byPrudential Spirit of Community Awards as one of the two top volunteers in New Jersey, and one of 102 national honorees out of 21,000+ applicants. As a result, she will be receiving recognition from the President of the United States!
To date, she has received recognition from the New Jersey State Legislature with her own Senate and General Assembly Joint Legislative Resolution [submitted by] Senate President Steve Sweeney, Speaker of the General Assembly Craig Coughlin, Senators Sam Thompson and Christopher Bateman, and Assemblyman Ronald Dancer and Assemblyman Robert Clifton.
My sister was nice enough to let me join the conversation with Governor Murphy. It was a surprise to get a phone call from him to thank us for all we have done. It isn’t every day that you get to speak to the governor who has been at the forefront of the pandemic. The best part is he was just a really nice guy who was kind enough to take time out of his day to speak with both of us. It made us feel really good.
You’ve done a number of local and national media interviews – what’s that been like?
It has been terrific to have the media share our mission of 5Help because the more people are aware of what we are doing, the more people we can help. It was very scary when we went on national TV with Fox News last April because we did the live interview staring into a black screen on a laptop. It is actually easier to do an interview in person or on zoom because you can read body language.
What we have found is that all of the interviewers that we have met whether for TV, print, or radio are wonderful individuals who try to put you at ease and make you feel like you are having a casual conversation. They are there to tell your story and they are experts at how they do that.
How can Lawrentians help?
There are many ways to do so and I hope my fellow Lawrentians and others will join our 5Help team. You can volunteer for an upcoming 5Help event (we always do food collections and we are currently working on personal hygiene bags for the homeless and for senior citizens) or have one of your own through 5Help. Just sharing our Facebook page (or creating a Facebook birthday fundraiser) and mission is also a big help.
You can also create your own fundraiser through our website. You can also follow us on Instagram or purchase items from our Amazon wishlist (you will soon be able to select us for your Amazon Smile nonprofit). We accept credit card, Paypal, Venmo, cash, and check. We are happy to get any donation amount and we want you to know that $5 means a lot to us.
If you know of a company that is looking to work with a nonprofit or wants to be a corporate sponsor, please think of 5Help! The more support we receive, the more people we can help.
We definitely need help growing our social media presence and other areas of support including IT, animation, and more. We are also open to any ideas or suggestions.
The biggest message is to let everyone know you can make a difference. Don’t underestimate what you can do, just take action. Join us and we will get you going quickly [so you can] hit the ground running.
For additional information, please contact Lisa M. Gillard Hanson, director of Public Relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org.