Bensalem High School junior Matthew Gold has a lot on his plate. In addition to being an active member of his school’s student government, drama club, yearbook committee, and boys’ volleyball team, Gold is doing his part to tackle one of the biggest social issues in the City of Philadelphia: homelessness.
“It’s always been an important issue to me—helping others less fortunate—ever since I was a kid. I used to sell stuff and have like lemonades stands, and donate all of the profits to local charities. This is something that is just a great thing to do,” Gold said.
Gold created a Facebook group called Make the Homeless Smile. He says the purpose of the group is simple; help Philadelphia’s homeless.
“It’s such an easy thing to do, and it serves such a great purpose. We’re more than capable of doing it,” he said.
So far, the group has added more than 1,000 members.
“Basically, after I created the page, I sat there for three hours and clicked every person I knew on Facebook and added them to the group. Then those people started adding more people and it just became a chain of like people caring about the issue and spreading the word,” he said.
Gold says the project was inspired by a Youtube video called Make the Homeless Smile. The video was posted in May of this year by Adam Saleh, Sheikh Akbar, and Abdullah Ghuman, in a Facebook group called TrueStoryASA and has garnered more than one million views.
“The video showed people all around the world doing genuinely nice things to people living on the street. I thought this was super inspiring. After seeing this guy do it, it was more of like a spark. I thought, if they can do it, than I can too,” Gold said.
Gold posted video messages on his Facebook page, asking his friends to participate in what he called the Philly edition of the Make the Homeless Smile project. Gold asked people to bring donations to a meeting place, where they would gather and leave on a group venture to distribute the items that were collected.
This past Sunday, Gold documented his group’s first trip to Philadelphia in a Youtube video. The video shows Gold and others distributing water, food and clothing items to people living on the street in downtown Philadelphia.
Gold says the first event was a great success, as the group received so many donations that they had enough to give to local shelters after they were done distributing items in Center City.
“We got a lot of donations in and there weren’t as many homeless people on the street as we’d anticipated, which is a good thing,” Gold said. “But the people we did give to were just so grateful. So it was a really good day.”
Gold says plans are already underway for another Make the Homeless Smile day.
“We’re probably going to do another one in the next three or four months, or around Christmas time. This is the first one we did, but I don’t think it’s going to be the last,” he said. “A lot of people have contacted me, not knowing that we did it yesterday, and they’re already interested in helping out with the next one.”
Make the Homeless Smile is a movement that began with the TrueStoryASA Facebook group’s video and quickly led to local adaptations of the idea to document people committing acts of kindness towards the homeless. Gold’s Make the Homeless Smile Philly Edition appears to be the second adaptation of the idea. A similar Facebook group started in California earlier this month.
While the movement seems to be growing, Gold says he didn’t have any expectations going into the project. Rather, he says he’s just happy that people have expressed interest in participating.
“I didn’t have any expectations because I didn’t want to be let down, but I did have hopes that people would take interest, and I’m glad that they did,” he said.