Buzzing for Change becomes nonprofit group

By shaving heads and cutting hair to donate to cancer patients, Buzzing for Change – a charitable student organization founded at GW – has moved above and beyond the confines of Foggy Bottom.

The program, which also raises money for local cancer charities, now has branches at four other college campuses and wants to expand to at least three more within the year.

Buzzing for Change’s rapid growth was sparked by its incorporation as an official nonprofit organization in fall 2007. Founder and GW alumnus Judah Ferst, 24, said the group became a nonprofit to bring the program to other college campuses.

“We had a meeting in November 2006 with some nonprofit experts to see how to bring Buzzing for Change to other campuses,” Ferst said. “We wanted to see what that would look like.”

Since 2007, Buzzing for Change has established programs at Bryn Mawr, Drexel, Duke and Rutgers.

Being a nonprofit “allows us the freedom to go to schools with credibility,” national board member Chris Percopo wrote in an e-mail. “This is important because we need school administrations to work with us to bring Buzzing for Change to their campuses.”

The program is also looking to increase their corporate sponsorship.

“We want to get more people involved at the foundation level,” said secretary Sarah Greenwood. Both she and Percopo worked with Ferst and Buzzing for Change while undergraduates at GW.

The GW branch of Buzzing for Change has also expanded its own program. Over the past year, they have hosted a series of smaller events and have teamed up with local businesses and charity groups. During the fall, they held an event at Crepeaway, in which Buzzing for Change received 30 percent of the profits during a set time period. They are also planning a “cancer fighting weekend” with Relay for Life, a three-day event scheduled for April.

“This year has been a change,” said Cheryl Silverbrook, president of the GW program. “In the past we focused on our one big event, but we want to expand to smaller events to increase awareness throughout the year.”

Silverbrook, a senior, wants to focus on making the group’s main event, in which students are sponsored to shave their heads or cut their hair, “bigger than ever.” She said the company College Boxes will help sponsor the event and that they are in talks with Zipcar for sponsorship.

Her goal this year, she said, is to raise at least $15,000 for Specialove, a camp in northern Virginia for children with cancer.

Over the next few years, Buzzing for Change plans to hire administrative staff and strengthen the Buzzing for Change foundation, which controls the campus programs.

“As a board, we know we have a responsibility to make sure this organization works and we all take it seriously,” Percopo said. Greenwood agreed, saying, “The stronger our board is, the stronger our college campus programs will be.”

Silverbrook said that the GW’s Buzzing for Change has been recruiting freshmen and sophomores in order to ensure continuity and stability in the program.

“The program has been around for almost six years,” she said. “And I want to make sure it’s going to be around for 25 more years.”

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