Local techie group facilitates the philanthropic spirit of a 10 year old
Vince Meehan | Downtown News
Ten floors above Columbia Street in the heart of Downtown, a group of techies were busy stuffing backpacks with hand towels, socks, wet wipes, toothpaste and various other items that a homeless person may need.
The men and women of The Control Group — a web-development company whose flagship site is InstantCheckmate.com — are nearly ready to hit the streets for their “I Got Your Back” backpack giveaway.
These “web-heads” are planning to fan out across Downtown in search of homeless people and provide them with the backpacks they’ve filled with necessities.
Chris Hooley is the director of search marketing for Instant Checkmate, and he is bouncing off the walls in anticipation of the giveaway. His enthusiasm is contagious; soon the entire staff is loading up and charging out the door in search of the needy.
“This is all a part of reKindle, a nonprofit co-founded by my 10-year old daughter Kaylee,” said Hooley as he reached down to muss up his daughter’s hair. “She got the idea by watching a YouTube video where some guys in Phoenix went out to help homeless vets on the streets.”
Kaylee said she wants her project to “go viral” and catch on in other cities.
“I was inspired by the message in Michael Jackson’s ‘Make a change’ video,” said the younger Hooley. “I want this to rekindle compassion in people’s lives and spread the idea of helping one another.”
reKindle is one of many after-hours programs that the crew from The Control Group are involved with. Sean Shahrokhi, director of project management, has also come along to support Kaylee and her foundation. He explained The Control Group’s philosophy, which is to get involved in local projects, thus giving back to the community.
“Kris Kibak and Joey Rocco are the co-founders of The Control Group, and they have been active in the community from the get-go,” Shahrokhi said. “Now, the entire company volunteers for things like the Helen Woodward Animal Shelter and I Love A Clean San Diego’s beach clean-ups.”
Out on the street, the crew has found a pocket of homeless near the Civic Center and begins to distribute the backpacks. Hooley makes it a point to engage the homeless is conversation and ask them if there is anything specific they need.
“The first time I did this, I really didn’t know what they needed outside of cold water and food,” Hooley said. “I found out that many of the homeless asked for socks, so we have plenty of them in our backpacks.”
Treating the homeless with respect and dignity is important to Hooley, and he proves it by high-fiving thankful recipients and joking with them in his thick Boston accent. After the 110 backpacks were distributed, he felt bad because several people did not receive one.
“I bet these people would love a pizza party,” Hooley said with his Irish grin. “That’s what we’re going to do, let’s go get some pizza for these guys!”
With that, Hooley told everybody to stay put and get ready for a party.
As he was leaving, he patted one man on the back and asked him, “How’s your day going?”
The man smiled and said, “You just made it awesome!”
To learn more about Kaylee’s charity organization, “reKindle,” visit rekindle.org.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated Hooley’s title and company name incorrectly and had a misspelling of Kris Kibak’s name.