Collegeville woman spurs effort to crowdsource help for those in need

Marlo Davis, founder of the “People Helping People” Facebook page
A view of the items which have been offered up on the “People Helping People” Facebook group page. Each item is offered for free for those who may need it. (Screen capture from Facebook)

Almost two weeks ago, a little girl with Alopecia posted on the “People Helping People” Facebook page that she was hoping to sell some handmade bracelets.

Those suffering from Alopecia lose all or most of their hair. As such, the girl wanted to use the profits from her bracelets to buy a pair of wigs: one for school, which was starting soon, and one for playtime.

Wigs are expensive and were a little beyond her family’s means.

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When members of the philanthropic Facebook group saw her post, they set up another fundraising site and posted a link to it on the page.

“Within four hours, it had exceeded the money that was needed,” said Marlo Davis, the founder of People Helping People. “We had to shut it down.”

The girl needed $350 for her wigs, but $425 was raised in that short amount of time. The little girl was able to get both the wigs in time for the start of the school year.

“It’s just typical of the members of the page,” Davis said.

Davis, of Collegeville, started the group in April specifically to benefit those in need in the Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties. It was the first time she’d ever tried anything of the like, but it only took four months to build the page to a membership of more than 6,000.

“We are just trying to help the community. I’ve always wanted to help people, that’s just kind of in my blood,” Davis said. “I wanted to be able to help people with things that they need.”

Davis, who works in home health care, said her desire to help started when she became active in a soup kitchen in Phoenixville.

“For years I would go there and that, of course, showed me the need,” she said. “I always had a heart for that kind of thing.”

The Facebook page is designed to allow users to post different things they’re willing to give away to those who need them, whether it be clothes, furniture, baby supplies, toys or similar items.

A segment of the users utilize the site as a sort of Craigslist to off-load unwanted items.

In the page’s title, it describes itself as a “Free Yard Sale.” Nothing is supposed to be sold for personal profit.

“There’s absolutely no money being made on the page,” Davis said.

She said the page usually identifies those who need help through private messages from those in need explaining their respective situations. Davis doesn’t currently work with any charity organizations through the page but does her best to weed through who needs the page’s help in the messages.

Through the donations of those involved in the page, Davis recently helped deliver two SUV-loads of supplies and toys to a family in Thorndale.

Additionally, the page became involved in the efforts of renovating and re-furbishing Christopher Galeassi’s home in Lower Providence, otherwise known as “The Sunnyside Project.”

In addition to directing help to specific families or individuals, the page organizes special, general challenges each weekend.

Last weekend was the “Back to School Haircut Challenge” in which free haircuts were arranged. A semi-regular grocery challenge also sought donations of food to special People Helping People food drive locations throughout the tri-county area.

Thirty-three families were helped by the latest grocery challenge weekend, Davis said.

“We asked people to look in your pantry and see what you have and then post anything you have to give,” said Davis.

With the page growing so fast, Davis shares administrator duties with two other women: Shaela Cruz and Heather George.

“They’ve been great,” she said. “They deserve a lot of credit.”

Even with three administrators, the page has taken off to the point that Davis says she’ll likely be adding a forth administrator soon.

To add to the page’s philanthropic efforts, Davis said they’re hoping to create new food drive locations at different businesses to collect throughout the year.

Finding great need in the tri-county area, Davis said she wants to keep the page’s focus local. Davis hopes other pages start in other areas to help those outside of the three counties who need help.

“The awesome, awesome thing is I got a private message from someone who moved to Florida and started a page in Florida,” Davis said. “Someone messaged me who started one in Maryland.”

There are five spin-off pages that she knows of.

Davis also hopes to partner with nonprofits and charities in the area to expand their reach and effect.

“The whole goal of the page is just to grow and help more people,” she said. “The more we grow, the more people we’re looking to help out.”

As such, Davis said she and her page administrators follow a sort of quote they discovered.

“It’s a quote to go by, ‘We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone,’” she said.

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno