Feeding a need

At just 16, Hillary Krisman has already developed a resumé worthy of a longtime community volunteer. Here, she describes the inspiration behind her nonprofit, CHANGEHUNGER, which has attracted national attention.



Hillary Krisman recently received the Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy Award from the Tulsa Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals for founding the nonprofit CHANGEHUNGER in 2007. That same year, the Booker T. Washington High School junior also received a $3,000 “Stop Hunger” award from Sodexho in Washington, D.C., to benefit the charity of her choice.

Krisman volunteers at Iron Gate Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry, the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, the Day Center for the Homeless, the Neighborhood Kitchens Project, Street Kitchens and Global Gardens. She also is a member of the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa Youth Philanthropy Initiative and the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, Tulsa Chapter; a board member of Resonance Center for Women Inc; and an intern at the Tulsa Community Foundation.

How did you first become interested in volunteering? My friend Alicia Goolsby goes to Trinity Episcopal Church, where the Iron Gate feeding program is, and she asked me to come with her. I realized how much I liked it and I thought it was really interesting. I wasn’t sure what it was I exactly liked, but I wanted to go back. So I asked my dad to come back with me. We’ve been volunteering there for quite some time now. It’s something we enjoy doing. … Then, when I created CHANGEHUNGER, it was specifically for Iron Gate, but then I realized I wanted to help other organizations. 


With already available help such as Iron Gate, why did you create CHANGEHUNGER? In the couple years I had been volunteering, the executive director at the time, Andrea Hutchinson, wanted to recruit more volunteers, so we created the program CHANGEHUNGER. It just fell into place.

How does it work? When I first started, we had paint buckets that we decorated with “Change Hunger, Help Iron Gate.” I called local religious organizations and asked if they would put them in their church, and people could just drop off their spare change. Then I decided to have bracelets that say “Change Hunger,” which I sold for a dollar, with all the money going to Iron Gate (and now to CHANGEHUNGER). I also asked ministers and rabbis if their youth groups wanted to volunteer.

How many volunteers do you have today? Probably over 100 from various youth groups. I have also invited school friends and made a page on Facebook — people from different religions and different schools.

To date, how much have you raised? Over $5,000; $2,000 came from the buckets, bracelets and donations from friends, and in 2007 I won the “Stop Hunger” award from Sodexho, which granted me $3,000 to give to a charity, which I gave to Iron Gate.

And you have already expanded beyond Iron Gate? Yes. Now, money and volunteers will go not just to Iron Gate but also to the Day Center, the Food Bank, the Global Garden and Garnett Bilingual Preschool. I’m providing fruit once a week for about 50 kids at the Garnett Bilingual Preschool. I am able to do this because of fund raising from CHANGEHUNGER.

How many hours a week do you spend on the project? In the summer, I spend a lot more, a couple of days a week, just working on recruiting people and calling churches. Now, school is a lot more demanding and I work at TCF, but two to three hours a week.

Is volunteerism a big part of your family’s life? Yes. Growing up, my parents told me it’s good to give back, but I didn’t realize how much I liked volunteering until Iron Gate.

Why is hunger such an important issue to you? It’s something that everyone has to deal with, and I think everyone should be provided with adequate food.

You said you wanted to work in nonprofits? Yes. I would like to major in public or nonprofit management.

What’s your biggest challenge? Time to do it. And it’s hard to get inspired sometimes when you don’t feel like doing anything.

If there is one thing you could do to help solve hunger, what would it be? Get more people involved. The more people that want to do something about it, the more that gets done.

To learn more about Hillary’s nonprofit, visit www.changehungertulsa.org.

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