To kickoff National Homeless Awareness Week and launch MyPocketChange, our nonprofit organization, my wife Van and I held an event on November 15th where we made 4,083 meals for the homeless. We based this event upon our previous experiences participating in Operation: Brown Paper Bag in Long Beach. The students that organized O:BPB have done amazing work over the past six years and we hope they continue.

Our plans would have gone nowhere had it not been for the hard work and dedication of Wali Kamal and the Muslim Student Association at UCLA. Wali helped us secure a site on campus at the very last minute, provided campus resources for the event, and the dedicated MSA volunteers. Not only did the MSA members help us make meals, but due to last minute issue, they carried 17 tables across campus uphill to the event.

Seven years ago to the day (11/15/2007) I was laid off from my job at EarthLink after nine happy years. I wasn’t the only one, but this day was the third wave of a larger ‘restructuring’ of the company in which more then half of the workforce lost their jobs. Of course, this didn’t make me feel any better about it. However, I put on a brave face for my wife and our eleven month old daughter.

For me, this recent Brown Bag event had that much deeper meaning especially because 50% of Americans are one paycheck away from being homeless if they loose their jobs. We were lucky that my employer offered me a very generous severance and my wife was working. But many Americans are not so lucky.

We know that these brown bag events are not a panacea, but we also know they do accomplish two things:

  1. They educate people who attend on the real scope and need. There are many people who had volunteered with their church or donated money to another organization but had never realized how many people were in need until they saw how much food we were making.
  2. Every little bit helps. The shelters we delivered the meals to were extremely grateful.

We began our event at 10am at the UCLA Sunset Recreation Center. We had an amazing turn out with volunteers of all ages. By the time daylight faded we had made 4,083 sandwiches –  short of our goal of 5000 but a fantastic effort! All the meals were loaded up and distributed to Union Rescue Mission, the Midnight Mission, and Upward Bound House.

Along with the UCLA MSA, we want to thank our sponsors:


Panera Bread


Extreme Pizza



Enzo’s Pizza

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

Smart & Final Charitable Foundation

Raintree Cleaners

Nestle Water



Flowers Foods

Oriental Trading Company


Group Micro

Guthy Renker



Please check out some images from our event here