Marci Quinn had the career she thought she wanted. The Connecticut native attended Penn State, worked for ESPN in her home state and then moved to New York City to pursue work in her field, communications. For 10 years she worked for MediaCom, a firm with global reach which she called “a media buying company. We worked with all the television networks, buying inventory.”
Then she married and moved to Manhasset, had two kids and put her career on hold. Permanently, it seems.
Quinn became a stay at home mom and introduced her young children, Aidan and Grace, to the sights and sounds of Manhattan.
“I would take them into the city a lot and obviously was witness to what was going on in the [streets],” she related. “I would bring snacks for the kids and when we got back to Penn Station I would give them out to people who were homeless if we had extras. After that, I would consciously bring extra snacks when I’d go in. And I started asking family and friends if they had extra toiletries and things like that and I started putting together little bags to bring in and I just loved doing that. That started probably about six years ago.”
As her outreach efforts to the homeless and indigent intensified, Quinn found similarly-minded people.
“I had a conversation with [Emily Borghard], who founded a similar non-profit in the city called Sidewalk Samaritan. And she let me know that she got her nonprofit set up through Fordham Law School pro bono,” Quinn related.
Quinn had hoped to start a foundation, which she named One Love Outreach Mission. But it’s a difficult and painstaking process.
“I knew it was going to cost a lot of money legally to get it set up,” she said. “So I decided to reach out to the law school and they said immediately that they would do it. The interns worked on it under the supervision of the professors and lawyers. So that happened earlier this year.“
According to Quinn, “You need to set [the foundation] up through the state as an organization and then you need to set it up through the IRS. You have to write your bylaws and your articles of incorporation and all this needs to be done under the supervision of lawyers. So there is a lot of work like that and then there’s a lot of filings you have to do to be exempt from state, city and federal taxes. We worked together for about three months, and we finally got our IRS 501 (c) (3) determination in late August.”
On A Shoestring
One Love does not have an office, operating out of Quinn’s home in Manhasset and with a Port Washington PO box number.
“It’s really just me and my board right now,” Quinn said. “I’m the president of the board and I have five other members.”
The board members are Amy Gibbons, Jaime Hummel, Jennifer Moss (also treasurer), Jennifer Potok and Raveena Jagwani (also secretary).
On many early Saturday mornings, Quinn and Jagwani drive to the city to hand out bags. Their usual destination is the Bowery Mission in lower Manhattan, meeting the mission’s clients while they’re having breakfast or standing outside. “Sometimes we drive around Manhattan and if we see someone, I just pull over,” Quinn related. “Sometimes I take the train in and bring as many packages as I can carry and hand them out to people I see.”
Q. You had a career. Did you feel unfulfilled in any way in what you were doing?
A: Yes, I definitely did. I was good at my job but in my heart I knew it wasn’t for me. It did not make me feel satisfied at the end of the day, other than the fact that I did a good job, according to my boss and whatnot. I do think that the 10 years of working in corporate America was a good thing because it gave me a lot of valuable tools in terms of things such as organization, communication and networking. Essentially this is like running a business.
I think that what I’m doing right now is what I am meant to do. I think there are other people meant to do different things [to solve] homelessness. I think that what I do is very personal. And what I give them makes them feel good for at least one day. They can take a shower, have soap and conditioner and shampoo and snacks and a new pair of socks. We give out t-shirts. So I think it’s just giving them one day to feel as good as possible and to just know that there are people out there who care about them. And I don’t think you have to solve the problem just by yourself. But this is what I’m drawn to do. I feel my heart is telling me to do this and I should be doing it.
Q. In this current atmosphere, is it difficult to ask people for money? And what are your sources of funding or hope to be your sources of funding?
A: Mainly the funding has come from board members and close friends and very close family. It’s extremely hard to get donations outside of that, to be honest. We do get a lot of in-kind donations, which are really valuable for us. In terms of getting in-kind donations, it is very easy. We had one major donor donate $10,000, but aside from that, it’s been under $3,000. John’s Crazy Socks, based in Melville, donated more than 200 pairs of socks. That was amazing. And I applied to a few local grants, so I’m hoping to hear back and have the grants come through, because getting donations from people is really difficult. If I post on Facebook that we need certain things, I get many responses from people in Manhasset and Port Washington.
As far as asking for donations she said, “It’s not terribly comfortable to ask people, but I think that I’m just going to look for organic opportunities—if someone is genuinely interested, I’ll let them know. And just go with my gut as I’m talking with people about it. A lot of people are very interested in the whole thing—I’m a stay at home mom that just started a nonprofit.”
Asked to characterize her interactions with the homeless, Quinn replied, “The main sentiments I receive is they’re grateful and humble and appreciative. So I have a lot of empathy for them and I haven’t had any really bad interactions in the city. There are certain people that I know in my gut not to approach. I don’t try to have long conversations. If they want to talk a little bit then I’m certainly willing to do so. But I like to keep it short and sweet with them. Just let them know that we care.”
Bystanders, she added, seem intrigued by her interactions.
There is an added benefit to what she’s been doing, she noticed: “A lot of people that I’m friends with work in the city. I get a text from them saying ‘I just gave someone $20 because of you.’ Someone would never do that before, but I think they know how passionate I am about it. They’ll notice someone [in need] and think of me and say, ‘Maybe I should do something right now.’ I’ve actually noticed transformation in people.”
As she guides her foundation into the future, Quinn would like to see more consistent funding and have the tools and resources to help as many people as possible.
“I want to be able to not be held back due to lack of funding,” she said. “At the same time we’re not a huge organization. If I got like, a $500,000 grant that would be really hard for me to get through (laughs).”
“But you’d find uses for that money,” she was told.
“It’d be amazing. I guess it could sustain us for many years,” she replied.
Mission: To provide the basic necessities that aid in the comfort, nutrition and hygiene of those experiencing homelessness, and to provide financial assistance and household resources to help families in need retain housing and education.
How to help: Donate at www.oneloveom.org. Items needed for necessity bags include travel size toiletries, adult socks, packaged snacks and bottled water/sports drinks.
Contact: Info@oneloveom.org or PO Box 324, Port Washington, NY 11050.