This Discover Janesville column will appear in Janesville Messenger on August 24th
A year ago, Janesville mailman Tom Hathaway, decided to throw a party. Tom happens to live on his mail route and so he invited all his neighbors and customers for a get together. To Tom’s surprise, over 200 people showed up and they had a great time. This got Tom thinking. A man who likes to take care of his neighborhood, and someone who walks the streets of Janesville for work every day, Tom decided that his party could be more than a neighborhood get together. Tom decided to use his house party to make a difference in the community where he lives and works.
With this thought on his mind, Tom and friends have been working tirelessly for the past year to turn a neighborhood party into a huge fundraiser to benefit Janesville homeless. Using social media and the network he built walking his mail route for 14 years, Tom found a lot of help, sponsors and now, to his relief, even port-a-potties, which were contributed by a sponsor. Tom is taking the week of the big event off from work to make sure that everything is ready, and he is also making his home the drop off site for those who want to bring things either for the party or for the homeless of Janesville.
This has been a different effort from others we usually see because Tom is not associated with a particular nonprofit nor is he looking to raise money for one organization. Instead, this year, on August 31st, Tom invited speakers from several organizations that serve the homeless in our community including Healthnet, ECHO, GIFTS, Project 16:49 and others, and asked them to come and speak, looking to raise awareness of the issue of homelessness. In addition, the event will feature performances by local musicians such as John Splan, Pancake Riot and Penny Mae Dixon Band, food from several popular food trucks and even alcohol sales. All with the purpose of raising money to benefit the homeless of Janesville.
For years Tom and his family wanted to do volunteer at soup kitchen for one reason or another it never happened, but when he started working as a mail carrier at postal services, Tom experienced first hand seeing his customers sleeping in cars. Tom even had one customer who said that “she had to pack up all her stuff and move into a car. I gave her a phone number and she found help.” Tom said that the reason he wanted to turn his house party into a fundraiser was that “Homelessness affects everyone. To me it’s just sad that it happens in America. And it happens more than people think. It’s not just adult males, it’s families, and it’s children. They need our help.”
Because this is the first annual event, Tom and his friends are not sure how much money they will be able to raise, however, they do expect between 500 and a thousand people to show up at Tom’s house at 604 N Adams Street in Janesville. When it comes to the impact Tom is hoping to have with the fundraiser, Tom expresses two main goals: one is that every one of the organizations involved will be better off then they were before the fundraiser, and also that people will decide to get involved with helping these organizations, having met and learned about them at the fundraiser. Tom points out that while many of his neighbors and customers may already be involved with some of these non profits, many people don’t know what options there are to get involved to make a difference, and he is hoping to change that with the 1st annual Fundraiser to Help Janesville Homeless.