Giving Hope to Those in Need

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Volunteers dish out food to the needy in Santa Ana on Christmas day.
Volunteers dish out food to the needy in Santa Ana on Christmas day.

Innovating, mobilizing and rehabilitating the community.

That’s the mission statement for Karma Camp, a new non-profit organization based out of Newport Beach.

The charity is also about building relationships, connecting people and organizations, breaking down stereotypes, resetting social standards, and helping those in need. But above all, it’s about hope.

“Is there hope? Yes, there is,” said Karma Camp Executive Director, Greg Sipe, and there are people that care out there that are willing, and really want to, help.

“A big part of what’s missing in their lives is just people that believe in them,” said the organization’s Communications Director, Sean O’Neill.

And both men really want to help and support those in need.

Both Sipe’s and O’Neill’s passion comes from their own struggles.

Sipe has been sober for about 17 years and O’Neill for 10.

“If it wasn’t for the people that reached out to me, that dug me out of the trenches, I wouldn’t be where I’m at now,” Sipe said.

Personal experience also fired up O’Neill to help others, like he was helped in his time of need. He had mentors that  really cared.

“They just believed in me,” O’Neill said. “When you’re in a dark place, you feel like there’s no hope.”

It’s a lifetime of giving back, he added.

Karma Camp Executive Director Greg Sipe (right) and Communications Director Sean O’Neill in their Newport Beach offices.
Karma Camp Executive Director Greg Sipe (right) and Communications Director Sean O’Neill in their Newport Beach offices.

They have both been working with rehab homes, counseling groups, charitable organizations and other groups that help those in need for many years, but Karma Camp has just recently become official.

The organization’s first event was a Thanksgiving day meal at both Lions Park in Costa Mesa, and near the courthouse in Santa Ana. On Christmas day, they returned to Santa Ana and spread holiday cheer, while feeding about 350 hungry people.

Now, the Karma team is working on the Interlink Outreach Program, which launches next week on Jan. 19 at Civic Center and Ross streets, in Santa Ana, near the courthouse. Yellowstone Recovery will be sponsoring the event.

The IOP will provide homeless people with access to the internet with five iPads the organization invested in, as well as setting up Google voicemail for those who need it, and other technology related needs.

The idea for the tech IOP came directly from the source: The homeless.

“That’s where we do our best research,” O’Neill said.

Through questioning people living on the streets they discovered how important things like internet and phone access and other services and items, other than food and shelter, are. Things that most people might not think about.

The IOP next week is a precursor to the Mobile Outreach Program, set to launch this summer.

The MOP will consist of a few mobile units containing showers, washers, dryers, changing rooms, and lockers. There will also be an area for medical staff, clinicians, and educators to meet with people, Sipe said.

“We’ll always be completely mobile,” Sipe said. “We’ll always go to them, we’ll always be on the street.”

Being mobile is vital, both Sipe and O’Neill agreed. If someone was in an accident or in a dangerous situation , the rescue and emergency crew come to the person in need, not vice versa, Sipe said as an example. This is the same idea, he said.

“We’re feeling very positive about this,” O’Neill said.

“We’ve got a lot of momentum going,” Sipe added.

Their first fundraiser is tentatively planned for late March. The event will include a silent auction and celebrity guest appearances.

The organization’s other key program is the community outreach group project. The groups work with elderly, youth, community cleanup, and animals.

“We empower the volunteers to become their own leaders,” O’Neill said.

Volunteers at the Thanksgiving event
Volunteers at the Thanksgiving event

The leaders choose something they are passionate about, do some research, work with about 10 or 20 volunteers and then collaborate with Karma Camp to take action.

“We’re trying to build relationships with the community,” O’Neill said.

They want to focus on changing the stereotype and removing the stigma that’s attached to homeless people. It’s about “resetting” the way people think, Sipe said.

They also want to work with the community to address the public’s concerns. They understand the other side of the situation too, he added, that things sometimes get ugly, or there are potential problems from having homeless in the community, he said.

“Obviously, there are two ends to the argument,” Sipe said.

Karma Camp can be the middle man, he said, and they can all try to work together to take positive action.

“We’re all in this together,” Sipe said, it’s a community effort.

“Let’s find solutions,” O’Neill added. They see and understand both sides and there is an appropriate way to deal with the issue, taking positive action toward a common goal.

The Karma Camp t-shirts say it all, “The love we give away is the only love we keep.”

“We get it. We understand. We’ve been there, we’ve done it. And we know how to get out of it. Follow us and we’ll take you there,” Sipe said, that’s what people need to here.

There is hope.

For more information, visit karmacamp.org.

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