Project with purpose: ‘Gotcha Boxes’ look to make impact


Photo courtesy of Akhila Mattapalli.

Mattapalli (left) and Mikkilineni are in their second and third years respectively as members of the NCHS FBLA Board.

570,000 people across the United States don’t have a place to call home, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. The homeless often lack social services, as well as access to clean water, food, and necessary toiletries. Homelessness is a national problem, but two NCHS students are aiming to make a difference in our own backyard. 

Akhila Mattapalli (‘20) and Priyamsa Mikkilineni (‘20), as board members of the NCHS chapter of Future Business Leaders of America,  chose to take charge of the Community Service Project, a competitive event which focuses on helping those that are less fortunate in the Bloomington-Normal community.

Mattapalli and Mikkilineni’s project, titled ‘Gotcha Box,’ raises funds to provide kits for the homeless, which contain toiletries and important hygienic care items. The duo decided on this project, “because [they]  wanted to make a community project for FBLA that goes beyond just volunteering,” Mikkilineni said, adding that creating supplies for the homeless serves a more targeted need than traditional FBLA efforts, which focus on lending a hand in the community at large.

After meeting with local nonprofits including the Unity Community Center and Home Sweet Home Ministries, and researching what is needed in the community, the seniors formed a committee within NCHS FBLA to coordinate the logistics of the project. Originally, the project was set to take place in the 2018-19 school year, but it “ended up being much more ambitious,” Mrs. Tara Pendleton, FBLA advisor, said.  “[They] ha[ve] been able to accomplish a good deal more in the full two-year process.”

 Stretching the project over two years has allowed the team to raise more money to put together the Gotcha Boxes, which included starting the Color Run during Homecoming week this year. The team also hosted Princess Spa Day, an event for young girls to have fun and spend time with princes and princesses. 

Between the two events and fundraisers hosted during the 2018-19 school year like Pennies for Pies, the project has reached its fundraising goals – which were to raise enough money for 100 boxes. Mikkilineni and Mattapalli now plan to work towards assembling the physical boxes over the course of the next month. The boxes will then be “distributed to local nonprofits including Home Sweet Home and the Unity Community Center,” Mikkilineni said. 

Not only have the board members focused on making an impact in their community, but the project has also taught them valuable lessons. While investigating where to best make an impact, they realized just how pervasive poverty was, with Mattapalli noting that “almost 20% of the Bloomington-Normal population lives below the poverty line.”

With the progress and impact that this year’s Community Service Project has accomplished, the duo hopes that next year’s board builds on it, working to make positive change in the community.

“The success of this program will set up the framework to include a chapter community service project in the future,” Pendleton said.