It started as a conversation with his dad.
Distraught by the lasting economic and social hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, former Cal safety Elijah Hicks sought to alleviate the burden his community was forced to bear. His desire to offer refuge from the constant pressure to provide did not stem from just a merely sympathetic perspective: Hicks is one of 11 children.
Growing up in Long Beach, California, the cost of living was high. His family’s financial constraints limited the opportunities available to him and his siblings. Tuition, transportation, sustenance — the expenses added up. Hicks then found himself attending three different high schools and living with four other households besides his own in order to maximize his academic and athletic potential.
That is all to say, despite his athletic scholarship, despite his reputation as an elite Cal football player and despite his current aspirations for the NFL: Hicks understands what it means to struggle. But he also understands what it means to give — to open your home to someone in need, to be kind and to show compassion.
So, after a conversation with his dad, Hicks started the Intercept Poverty Foundation to offer financial assistance to students distressed by the pandemic.
It sounds simple to start an organization and have everything just fall seamlessly into place. For the most part, that is the generalization the public so readily makes. But building a nonprofit from the ground up is no easy feat, especially when you are building your knowledge base up at the same time.
“The most challenging part was, I really didn’t know what I was doing,” Hicks said. “I had to learn as I went. That’s probably one of the best parts, and that’s what I’m still doing — learning as I go. But when you want to do something, you find a way to make it happen.”
From flyering on Sproul Plaza to volunteering at UC Berkeley’s food pantry, Hicks was instrumental to the way his foundation took off. After collaborating with current and former student-athletes Terrell Burgess and Chase Claypool, Intercept Poverty’s COVID-19 Campaign in partnership with No Kid Hungry reached its goal of raising over $65,000 in just three days. The funds were distributed to local charities with the mission of providing food for children who were unable to access school meals during limited in-person learning.
The Intercept Poverty Foundation is currently awarding emergency grants of $500 to $700 to UC Berkeley students who need assistance with rent, medical bills, childcare, transportation and food. Though the funds are currently limited to local residents, Hicks is excited about expanding the reach of Intercept Poverty in the future.
“Slowly, if I get more help, (I want) to make it a more nationwide program,” Hicks said. “Start reaching out to other schools and helping student-athletes bring awareness on their campus, as well as have student-athletes be the driving force of that program at their school.”
The sky is truly the limit for Hicks and the Intercept Poverty Foundation. After all, conversations manifest into realities. Conversations manifest into change. And, perhaps most importantly, conversations manifest into purpose.