Each Friday we’ll be profiling one of our GoPayment users who have shared their story with us. We’re excited to have our first User Profile feature Vitamin Angels, who were kind enough to tell us about their history and mission and how GoPayment has helped them grow.
Sometimes it takes a significant event to jumpstart an idea. In 1994, in response to a Southern California earthquake, Howard Schiffer founded Vitamin Angels.
Vitamin Angels’ mission is simple: to mobilize and deploy private sector resources to advance availability, access and use of micronutrients, especially Vitamin A, by the newborns, infants and children in need. Schiffer said that 1994 earthquake in Northridge, a Los Angeles neighborhood, gave him the motivation he needed to start the nonprofit.
“Many families from the migrant community lost their homes. People were living outside in tents, not eating correctly, not sleeping, and very stressed out,” he said.” A representative from a local relief agency in Santa Barbara called up a company I was an owner of to ask for help. They told me they were afraid of the children getting sick and epidemics spreading because of the poor conditions, and were looking for a donation of supplements. I told them that I would make some calls.”
A few of his contacts in the industry offered support and said they would do what they could. “Three days later, the relief agency called me, screaming, ‘How did you do this? This is incredible! We’ve never had this many vitamins!’ Later I learned that a truck had just delivered three pallets of vitamins. I told them ‘When the dust settles from the earthquake, we should get together. I have an idea,’” he said.
Three weeks later, Vitamin Angels was born. The organization focuses on distributing nutrients to children in developing countries, and they continue receive support from manufacturers, retailers, corporations and individuals. Vitamin Angels has distributed more than 100 million vitamins and supplements in the past three years to people in 40 countries around the world.
According to Vitamin Angels, it only takes 25 cents to provide a child with Vitamin A and anti-parasitics for a year. That means that for $1, they can provide a child with vitamin A during the most vulnerable years of their life.
“The children in developing countries do not have the food and nutrition available, and they often survive on the bare minimum,” said Kim Saam, communications manager. “Donations can help children attain good health with an opportunity to lead meaningful and productive lives.”
GoPayment helps a great cause
Recently Vitamin Angels was at a golf tournament on the East Coast that was organized by Vitamin Shoppe, one of their largest partners. With about 250 people in attendance, the team said it received more than $6,500 in donations with the help of GoPayment, which allowed them to process credit cards on mobile phones at the event.
“The ease of the system and knowing immediately how much we generated is such an improvement,” said Sarah Gasca, development assistant. “We are definitely looking to use GoPayment for any event where it makes sense to use it.”
Gasca said many of those donations probably would have been lost if GoPayment hadn’t been available. Without this option, they would have been forced to write down credit card numbers and then manually enter the card, print and send a receipt when they returned to the office — all while hoping that the credit cards wouldn’t decline.
Making a difference
One of their goals is to expand their brand recognition. People understand there are hunger problems, food shortages and lack of water in many countries, but don’t know about the lack of vitamins and minerals that kids need.
Vitamin Angels are essentially starting from the bottom up to get people’s attention and telling that story is not as easy. And that is where new media outlets and charity events have helped them. Whether it is posting promotions on Facebook, having people follow them on Twitter or attending concerts, parties and school fundraisers, they are looking for new ways to get people involved.
“Every day is different, and there are some amazing stories to tell about individuals that need help,” said Saam. “Our impact is directly tied to children, so the hard work and long hours are worth it.”
That hard work has helped Vitamin Angels grow rapidly and increase their staff over the last three years. They have gone from helping 7.5 million children to setting a goal for 2010 of reaching more than 20 million children that need nutrients.
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