Long Beach Giving Project inspires 15 locals to “give big”

long-beach-giving-project.jpgBy Jessica Selva
Special to the Signal Tribune

Samuel Lippke had known 67-year-old Heather Hamm for less than an hour, but on Wednesday afternoon, he was already helping the woman pick clothes off the racks at Loehmann’s in Long Beach.
After Hamm, who has multiple sclerosis and dementia, switched to a new medication and gained 50 pounds, each day became a battle with her wardrobe. She needed new clothes, but she didn’t have the money. That’s when Lippke, a 22-year-old freelance photographer, stepped in.
At the cash register, he paid for a blouse, two pairs of pants, two pairs of underwear and a bra. The bill came out to $98.44, just under his $100 limit. Lippke had just completed his second “give.” He was one of the 15 participants in the Long Beach Giving Project, a community giving contest that started three weeks ago. He had until Saturday night to finish using the rest of his allotted $500.
“That’s going to just help out so much because I just had a terrible time getting dressed in the morning,” Hamm said.
Lippke was competing to be the most effective giver, and he won. Some of his other gives included buying lunches for the homeless and piano lessons for 9-year-old girl whose brother and grandfather recently passed away.
Altogether, the group of contestants gave out $7,500 in gifts. An additional $1,000 was awarded to Lippke, who will use the money for more giving.
The project was yet another community service event put on by one of Long Beach’s most popular community activists-Justin Rudd. His most recent venture is his giving project. It was a plan inspired by Oprah Winfrey’s “Oprah’s Big Give,” a reality television show in which contestants compete to give away hundreds of thousands of dollars in life-changing ways. On the show, contestants are judged on their giving and eliminated as the episodes progress.
Rudd decided to host a Big Give of his own. It started after a missed opportunity last summer to audition for the show. He heard that there were going to be auditions in Los Angeles and wanted to try out, but vacation plans interfered. Friends had emailed him, telling him he would be perfect candidate, and he agreed.
Rudd watched “Oprah’s Big Give” when it later aired, and as the season approached its ending, he had an idea-why wait for the show to hold its next auditions? Why not create a Big Give of his own?
That was about a month ago. A week after coming up with the idea, Rudd contacted some of his regular volunteers to see who ºwas willing to participate. The contest began on April 20 the day of the finale of “Oprah’s Big Give.”
It ended on Saturday night at Bayshore Community Congregational Church, where contestants shared their stories and were judged on their giving decisions by a panel of philanthropists before their family, friends and community volunteers.
The rules were simple. No more than $100 could be spent on one person, family or organization. No more than $100 could be spent in one place or from one vendor. All the giving had to be done in the Long Beach area. And participants could not simply give cash. They had to spend the money on specific needs or goods that would be given directly to recipients. The contestants were judged on their levels of creativity and effectiveness.

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