about the founders …
HOW DID THIS ALL GET STARTED?
Bonded by friendship but separated by high schools throughout the county; As Juniors in 2018, Karina Wilson, Alyssa Kowalczyk and Genna Green come together through compassion.
It started by serving others at the Community Food Pantry and their common youth group, AGAPE, at Village Presbyterian Church, and through their love of Tampa an idea transpired; BAGS OF HOPE. The girls have seen similar blessing bags, Karina has even shared them as a part of her religion class at TC, but the push is that these offer real HOPE and some steps/options toward solutions, new starts, not just a toothbrush, soap and a granola bar.
Karina and Alyssa became friends at 5 in kindergarten at a charter school in Lutz, Learning Gate Community School. Genna joined in their special friendship as they all cheered together in middle school for a local recreational league, the Northside Dolphins and later competitively at XCEL in Odessa, FL. But as they started high school, these three found themselves at different schools; Karina at Tampa Catholic HS, Alyssa at Steinbrenner HS and Genna at Gaither HS. New friends, new commitments & challenges yet their friendships still reeked of love, secrets of BFF’s, college dreams, academic achievements and successes, all the typical high school “stuff.”
One way they spend time together is by going downtown for impromptu “photoshoots.” Karina’s love of photography, anything downtown and then she passed on her love of the Lightning to her friends; taking them both on several occasions to see her ‘boys’ in action at Amalie is what they consider fun.
They have spent some time downtown walking on the streets of Tampa, the city they love, but can’t seem to shake the sadness when passing the homeless living there. Although not always a comfortable situation, they too have avoided conversation or eye contact, but the compassion and concern they each have for their fellow neighbor in the community is real, this struck a chord.
They found themselves loving the highlife of downtown, Eddie & Sams Pizza, a great Lightning win, and even cookie dough at Dough Nation, but they still had heavy hearts about those watching them pass by ... alone, cold, dirty and possibly hungry. What was their story? Where did they go to high school? Did they have dreams? Where is their BFF? Was this a choice or a consequence? Are they scared?
Regardless how they got there, it may be a choice; they deserve the basic human needs of food. For these girls, adding some lost dignity with a special note of love and numbers and addresses where they can find shelter, a warm meal, or even crisis options would help. This birthed what they call “BAGS OF HOPE.”
Meet the Creators
Karina Wilson, Alyssa Kowalczyk, Genna Green
Hello, my name is Karina Wilson. Two close friends and I founded ‘Bags of Hope’, spreading hope and love for those in need in the Tampa area, one bag at a time. I am a junior at Tampa Catholic High School. I am very involved at TC and an honor roll student. I am a varsity cheerleader and a TC Lacrosse player. I am a Tampa Catholic Ambassador, National Honor Society member, President of the National English Society, Rho Kappa Honor Society, National Spanish Honor Society, Anne Frank Humanitarian Award recipient, participate in the Key Club, Think Pink Club, Spanish Club, For The Kids (supporting children who fight cancer and other illnesses - another passion), CrossFit (Religion/Faith Club) and the Green Locos Spirit club. I attend church regularly, love my youth group - AGAPE-and I have earned nearly 300 service hours in high school. My favorite thing to do is watch hockey (Go Bolts!)
UPDATE JUNE 2019:
Karina is off to the University of Florida to study Journalism, specializing in sports and media.
Hey, my name is Alyssa Kowalczyk and I am one of the creators of Bags of Hope Tampa! I attend Steinbrenner High School where I am very involved and active. I am a cheerleader for Steinbrenner and participate in National Honors Society, Beta and more. I love school but my favorite thing to do is spend time with my friends! Two of my best friends are Genna and Karina, the other creators of Bags of Hope Tampa. One of our favorite things to do is go downtown and do photo shoots where we see beautiful art, our favorite boys at Amalie arena and sadly many people in need. I am so excited to see where this journey takes me and my best friends as we change lives all over Tampa Bay!
UPDATE JUNE 2019:
Alyssa is off to Florida State University to study Occupational Therapy.
My name is Genna Green and I’m a junior at Gaither High School. I am involved in lots of activities at school involving student government and I am on the tennis team. Before high school, I cheered for the Northside Dolphins. This is where I met some of my best friends that I have today. Two of them are Alyssa and Karina. We love going downtown together but it upsets us seeing the people in need on the sides of the road. The idea of Bags of Hope is to help those people in need and give them hope that things will get better. We are excited to provide some HOPE!
UPDATE JUNE 2019:
Genna will be attending Hillsborough Community College to study Elementary Education.