Businessman who was once homeless in drive to help poor over Christmas
A shipping business owner who fought his way back from homelessness said he wanted to give back with a holiday charity campaign.
Kevin Simmons, the executive director of Ekko Trading Bermuda, wants to hand out food, toys and blankets to about 300 Bermudians for Christmas with his Project 300 campaign.
He explained that the Covid-19 pandemic had drastically increased the number of people who needed financial help.
Mr Simmons added: “I’ve been homeless in Bermuda and the US – I know what it feels like going to soup kitchens or not knowing where the next meal is coming from. I’ve even been homeless around the holidays.
“I grew up on Pond Hill in a single-parent household. My mom was working one or two jobs around the holidays so we could have a few things.”
Mr Simmons, who operates Ekko Trading from New Jersey, plans to ship goods to his Bermuda office through his service – but could benefit from donations from those who want to help out.
Project 300 aims to hand out 100 Christmas meals for families, 100 blankets for the homeless and 100 toys for children aged 16 and under.
He also insisted that the campaign was “not a moneymaking scheme”.
“The holidays are the busiest times of the year for me – but I’m diverting all of my attention to this.”
He added: “I was going to say ‘I’ll hold off on this until next year’, but when I saw the amount of people who reached out to me I thought ‘I can’t let these people down’.
“This is personal for me; I really just want this to work.”
Mr Simmons started Project 300 last year as a way to support families who were struggling financially.
He first donated food, blankets and other supplies through his own campaign and other donation drives, such as Desmond Crockwell’s holiday blanket drive last year.
A spokeswoman for the project said that they wanted to provide perishable items such as milk and deli meats to give families better variety.
She explained: “We want someone to be able to create a meal – we don’t want to give them spaghetti but then they have nothing to make the spaghetti with.
“They may get a box and it would have tinned food, green peas, a box of dried spaghetti and a box a rice, but then there’s nothing for them to actually make a meal with.”
The spokeswoman said that they wanted to raise $5,000 for the drive, or the equivalent in goods or grocery vouchers.
She added that the company was hoping to receive their charity licence this week so they could continue Project 300 year-round.
The spokeswoman said: “Later we want to be able to provide things that people are going to use consistently – toilet paper is a regular need, napkins are a regular need, toothpaste is a regular need.
“We want to give these families what they need versus what we think that they need.”
Mr Simmons asked that those who wished to donate or sign up for assistance contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org before the end of the month.