If you asked Zoe Prekop about herself, she would say she is a junior from Chicago that loves traveling, exploring new places and even cliff jumping! But in addition to being a fun-loving teen open to new ideas and experiences, Zoe has been a huge advocate for ending hunger and poverty and organizing support for Heifer International.
As a member of the Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church--a congregation of about 60 people--she has been doing Living Gift Markets in her community since she was 9-years old. Over the years, Zoe has raised approximately $7,000 and says she plans to continue doing this popular fundraiser as long as she can. Zoe recently spoke with Beth Gunzel, Community Engagement Coordinator for Heifer in Chicago, to share her story.
Beth: What inspired you to get involved in hunger and poverty issues?
Zoe: My family has always been one to give back to the community in one way or another, so I grew up with not only an expectation, but wanting to help those in need. When I was nine years old, back in 2005, I saw a Heifer magazine [World Ark] in my grandparents’ house. I looked through the whole magazine and loved the idea of a sustainable donation. I’ve been working in LPPCs homeless shelter for many years and I find myself attracted to helping the homeless and hungry, which is probably why I was so drawn to Heifer.
Beth: How do you get church members to support your Living Gift Market?
Zoe: I sell Heifer [animals] during LPPCs Alternative Christmas Fair where there are multiple people from different organizations selling a variety of merchandise. Everyone is so supportive and they realize that even though they don’t walk off with a physical gift, what they bought is more important than anything they could have gotten wrapped from a store.
Beth: Are there any particular countries that Heifer works in that you are most interested in?
Zoe: As of now the Goats Give Back project in Nepal seems very exciting! Most of the time I don’t have a specific country that I want to send to, it’s always been about helping as many people as I can. One day I hope I can travel to all these different places and participate in person.
Beth: What three tips would you give on having a successful Living Gift Market?
Zoe: I would say that make sure you have enough information about what you’re selling and why it’s important. Having an honor card as proof of purchase never hurts, and lastly you need to be passionate about what you’re doing because people will feel that energy and it will not only get you excited about their purchase, it will get them excited too.
Beth: What words of encouragement can you provide for other teens considering doing a Living Gift Market?
Zoe: Never give up or get discouraged about not selling tons of stuff. In my very first year I sold around $80 in chickens and geese. It didn’t seem like I was doing anything, but then I realized that even if I’m only helping four people, that’s four more people that won’t go to sleep hungry for years to come. Do what you can and know that every bit helps.
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Transitional kindergarten student, Carla, shared, "Heifer helps people!" If you would like to learn more about our mission, please click on the following link: http://www.heifer.org/ending-hunger/index.html.
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Transitional kindergarten student, Emmeline, shared with us, "I helped raise money so you could give someone a cow." Thank you so much for your generosity, Emmeline!
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