There is no shortage of volunteer opportunities in Williamson County, but one Independence High School student wanted to pave his own way in pursuing community service for college applications, and in just about a month, he and his friend raised enough money to purchase 10,000 masks for those in need.
Ben Beard, a senior, has kept himself busy during his last couple years in high school. He has launched a lawn care business that he has now passed down to his brother and has maintained an e-commerce website supporting local crafters. Over the summer, he participated in two internships, one of which he continues now, and he has also started volunteer work. He hopes to get into a prestigious university.
Beard said he participated in established volunteer opportunities around the area, but he didn’t find a good fit.
“I kind of struggled to find an opportunity where I felt like I was actually making a difference instead of just looking for something to put hours on the application,” he said.
He added that with his connections through his family, friends and internships, he felt like he was “in a place of privilege as far as how much resources, time and connections” he has and decided it was best to do something on his own.
Beard decided to volunteer to collect masks for the MasksNOW Coalition, a group of volunteers in Williamson Country hoping to provide cloth face masks for those in need.
As he started to ask people for masks, Beard got some donations, but many people didn’t have any extra masks lying around and didn’t want to buy them, wait for them to ship and then donate them. So, he pivoted and started asking for monetary donations so he could buy the masks himself.
“We cast a pretty wide net. I had a lot of connections through the two different internships I’ve done,” he said, adding that he and his friend, Ty Anderson, also advertised on social media pages. “We ended up getting a lot of donations from people we’ve never met before. … It seemed like a lot of people wanted to help.”
Beard realized a lot of people wanted to contribute but didn’t have the time, so collecting money was a good way to go.
“I’m still a teenager. I don’t have a job and a bunch of obligations 24/7,” he said. “A lot of these people just don’t have time to go out and start something themselves, and they’re looking for someone to step up and start something, and once they do, they’re happy to get behind it and help in any way they can.”
After a few weeks of brainstorming and three solid weeks of fundraising, Beard and Anderson collected over 10,000 masks, which the MasksNOW Coalition picked up this week for distribution.
To learn more about the MasksNOW Coalition, visit MasksNow.org.