Most people have plenty of clothes they no longer wear. The Wings Initiative is a national organization founded by Charlie Benjamin ’23 that is dedicated to donating used clothing for children in need. Since its founding in 2021, the Wings Initiative has raised over 1,000 dollars and collected over 2,500 donations.
The PA Wings Initiative aims to encourage more Andover students to donate used clothing to charitable causes. When coming up with the idea for the organization, Benjamin realized that the vast majority of students were unable or did not have time to drive and donate clothing themselves. As such, the initiative provides a simple, fast way for students to contribute to the community without the usual challenges.
“At the PA Wings Initiative, we act as a middleman for getting people’s used clothing items to organizations who distribute them to the community. So far, that’s been through Cradles to Crayons, which makes clothing kits for kids. We’ve also gone and donated to a thrift shop up in Lawrence that’s very cheap—like a dollar for a t-shirt—for the community around there,” said Benjamin.
Aside from donating to local organizations, the PA Wings Initiative has recently started a fundraiser for Ukraine. The money raised will be used to purchase clothing and blankets which will then be donated to Nova Ukraine, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing humanitarian aid to people in Ukraine.
“Consistent with our community efforts with clothing, I thought we should use our platform to help out with the current crisis in Ukraine—making it convenient and collaborative. So far we’ve raised a small $65 on the GoFundMe but I have received other cash donations that we plan to buy items with. We will likely buy medicine and bring it to the Melrose town hall where they are collecting useful items to ship over. We will likely donate a box of 500 pairs of socks too,” wrote Benjamin in an email to The Phillipian.
As the PA Wings Initiative is gaining more traction at Andover, the organization has helped start Wings Initiatives at two other high schools and is currently contacting other boarding schools in the area to start similar projects as well.
“At first, I got people in the group to reach out to their friends, but it wasn’t very successful at first. It wasn’t getting started. Over this last break, I made an infographic on the process and how easy it is to start a cycle of people seeing it and people wanting to contribute at a different school. Right now we are in three different locations, about to be more,” said Benjamin.
According to Lena Ciganer-Albeniz ’25, Social Media Coordinator of the PA Wings Initiative, she knew she wanted to join a club at Andover relating to welfare. When she saw the Wings Initiative at the Club Rally in October, she immediately signed up.
“This is my first time directly being on the board of a club that does donations and fundraising and all that. I was just interested in doing something that has to do with welfare or donations. The Wings Initiative happened to be the first one that I got an email from, so I was like, ‘why not sign up for that and try to get on the board?’ It was a completely new thing,” said Ciganer-Albeniz.
Arun Kapoor ’25, Donation Manager of the PA Wings Initiative, joined the club after learning about it through other students on the board. He believes that the unique aspect of the Wings Initiative is the easy accessibility it provides to students.
“There’s obviously a lot of ways that you can help people whether it could be donating clothes or some other way that a lot of people might have a preference for, but this is a school club. We’re a more accessible way for people to help out and donate,” said Kapoor.
The PA Wings Initiative currently consists of six board members and has contributions from numerous more student donors. In Benjamin’s own words, the club is “building an empire of kindness.”
“Donating doesn’t just mean helping underprivileged kids in the greater Boston area. Donating means being a bigger part of your own community here at [Andover],” said Benjamin.