What started as an English project for four UT students has become a campaign to raise $14,000 for the Love Kitchen, a local non-profit organization dedicated to feeding Knoxville's homeless and underprivileged population.
The fundraiser aims to purchase a new cooler for the charity.
The Love Kitchen, founded by twin sisters Helen Ashe and Ellen Turner, fed its first group on Feb. 14, 1986. The meal served 22 people in a small church in East Knoxville.
Today, the Love Kitchen has its own building two blocks away from that very church, where it serves more than 3,000 meals each week. More than 80 percent of those meals are delivered to home-bound recipients who are unable visit the kitchen due to health or transportation problems.
Reid Foust, sophomore in accounting and a campaign founder, says the organization has far outgrown its current facilities.
"When deliveries come in, they have to take all of the perishables out, put in all of the delivered meals, deliver them, and restock the cooler," Foust said. "It's an incredibly inefficient, disorganized and cramped process. This new cooler would be over twice the size of the current one, and would allow them to serve around five to six thousand meals to the Knoxville community."
To solve this problem, Foust and fellow students began the "Love is Cool" campaign on Mar. 25.
Matt McCarty, sophomore in supply chain management and a campaign founder, said the group originally set a $1,500 goal on Indiegogo. This goal was accomplished in only 24 hours.
"We reached our minimum goal so quickly we decided to take it even further and attempt to raise the entire $14,000 for the new cooler system," McCarty said. "The Love Kitchen is an important part of the Knoxville community; they've given so much to the people of this city, it's time for us to give back."
Now, the group is looking to students to continue the movement.
"We know they can't donate much, but we know they're all on Facebook." Foust said. "... We're trying to drive home the point that small donations are the most important; if one person donates $100, that's great. But if 1,000 people donate just $1? That's incredible."
While "Love is Cool" began as a project for class, each of the members have taken the movement to heart.
"Getting all of this funding doesn't necessarily mean we're going to get an A," Foust said. "But we're not doing this for a grade at this point. This is just to go out and raise the most money we can for these people."
Greg Young, another group member and a sophomore in supply chain management, said he has enjoyed interacting with Ashe and Turner through the project.
"Helen and Ellen are the sweetest ladies you could ever hope to meet," Young said. "They call everyone who comes in their children; that's just the kind of people they are.
"Even if you just bring an orange in, Helen and Ellen will go nuts and tell everyone how great it is that you brought an orange in."
Fourth campaigner Dwayne Johnson, a junior in business management, has volunteered at the Love Kitchen and said physical help is just as valuable as monetary donation.
"You come in and say you want to volunteer and they put you straight to work," Johnson said. "You can donate the amount of time you want, even if it's just 30 minutes. They'll be thankful for any amount of time you spend there."
To learn more about the "Love is Cool" campaign, you can visit their Facebook page.