MANCHESTER, NH – If you gave Amanda Bouldin an abundance of lemons, she’d make good use of the citrus overload – probably by launching several strategic lemonade stands to benefit the hungry or homeless.
By the same logic, her annual Shire Sharing Thanksgiving dinner giveaway ended up this year with an unexpected surplus, exceeding their fundraising goal of $10,500, after 330 deliveries were made on Tuesday, so now the wheels are turning.
“The plan is to pick up a bunch of hand warmers and gloves and head over to the day shelter in Manchester tomorrow,” says Bouldin, after distributing what was left of the canned and boxed goods that didn’t have a designated family in need to go to.
Bouldin explains that one of the organizations they’d planned to partner with fell through at the last minute, leaving them to scramble and find some more mouths to feed.
But Bouldin and her 70 volunteers weren’t deterred. They met up in a donated warehouse space on Perimeter Road, courtesy of Brady Sullivan, lined up hundreds of red tote bags and filled them to order, then loaded up cars and vans and a delivery bus that seats 20, “a good deal from a friend,” and rolled out across the state, knocking on doors, spreading holiday cheer and evoking many hugs and even some tears from recipients.
Attached to each bag was a handwritten note that read: “This comes to you from someone who cares about you. All we ask is that you take care of yourself well enough to be able to do this for someone else someday,” set off by a small Free State Project coin with the inscription, “Liberty in our Lifetime.”
In the end, they didn’t make this year’s goal of 500 meals distributed, but given the unexpected hurdles, Bouldin is happy with the outcome.
“Three-hundred and thirty households all around New Hampshire, that’s about 1,158 individuals,” says Bouldin, who is about to discover another arm of community service: She was recently elected to serve as a state rep in Manchester’s District 12, representing Ward 5.
This is the fourth year in a row that Bouldin, 29, has organized the charitable outreach, powered by a small army of friends turned volunteers. Her network of like-minded Libertarians uses Facebook to organize and execute their good deeds, an effort so impressive that she has garnered the attention of Facebook HQ – a film crew was dispatched last weekend to follow their Thanksgiving meal project, and Bouldin is featured on the Facebook Stories page, which highlights how individuals and groups use Facebook for the greater good.
There, you learn more of Bouldin’s back story and the true inspiration for her acts of
kindness – it’s her way of paying tribute to her late dad, Kent Bouldin, who died of cancer shortly after his daughter moved to New Hampshire from Texas. He had taught by example, running a similar outreach there called the Basket Brigade, and Bouldin felt the best way to work through her grief and honor his spirit was to pick up where he left off.
Since then her Shire Sharing Facebook Group has fielded other charitable ideas and raised money for those who are sick, or have fallen on hard times. Bouldin describes the group as a community on the Facebook Stories page, rather than a “non-profit,” although there is no profit. All money raised is put back into the community:
Although Shire Sharing has no overhead, is all-volunteer and no one is paid, it isn’t really a non-profit. Shire Sharing is a community. Our Facebook Group is the virtual place where we show up and get stuff done. Members read updates about our projects and choose to contribute when they’re able to. We don’t need a Board of Directors — a post in the group will suffice. We don’t mail out fundraising letters — we’ve raised tens of thousands of dollars solely through social networking. All our community work begins on the internet and comes to fruition in the real world. – FacebookStories
And the goodwill gene hasn’t skipped a generation – Bouldin’s daughter, Sophia, 8, helped organize satellite Shire Sharing food collection at her school, Polaris Charter School in Manchester.
“Saturday, while we were at the warehouse, students were in the school with their families packing their own bags. Then on Sunday, they went out and delivered the food they donated! They got to see it from start to finish – from bringing the food into the school, to knocking on the door of the recipient,” Bouldin said.
Among those recipients are displaced veterans from Manchester’s Liberty House, and
Harbor Homes in Nashua. In fact, Bouldin said she was back at the warehouse on Monday sweeping up when she got a call – the first time in four years she’s heard from a basket recipient.
“I figured someone was calling to complain that they didn’t get their basket –I had one of those earlier, after a delivery was left at the apartment front desk,” Bouldin says. “Instead, it was a man calling to thank us. He said that he’s a veteran living in temporary housing, and that if it weren’t for us, they would’ve eaten macaroni and cheese on Thursday.”