Sacramento State partners with Josh’s Heart to provide essentials to area homeless
February 10, 2023
The Community Engagement Center (CEC) at Sacramento State is teaming up with a local nonprofit to share Valentine’s Day love with the region’s homeless population by providing backpacks and hygiene kits.
The CEC and Josh’s Heart, an organization that assists those struggling with addiction and homelessness, are collecting donations to distribute during the Love in Action day of service on Feb. 18.
“Like so many members of the Hornet family, I have helped to deliver backpacks with Josh’s Heart,” Sac State President Robert S. Nelsen said. “Providing someone with a backpack ensures that they have the personal items they so desperately need, but more importantly it is a way to let someone know they are seen and that they matter.
“Josh’s Heart is making a difference in people’s lives every day and is a true example of the Hornet spirit.”
The CEC is collecting new items such as hand sanitizer and wipes, beanie hats, gloves, socks, bottled water, snacks, hygiene products, and other essentials through Feb. 14.
"I know what it’s like to have someone you love that’s out there, and you want to do more. We can’t save everyone, but we can do something.” -- Community Engagement Center Volunteer and Program Specialist Sherell Branch
The center is also looking for student, faculty, and staff volunteers to help fill and distribute backpacks at local parks during the day of service on Feb. 18.
“Because it’s Valentine’s Day, we think about relationships and the people we care about,” CEC Volunteer and Program Specialist Sherell Branch said. “But sometimes, we need to look at what’s going on around us … at people we look past in our communities such as our unhoused community members.
“They are someone’s son, or someone’s brother or mother or sister.”
Sac State software and data analyst Don Nahhas and his wife, Dawn, started Josh’s Heart in 2016 after their son, Joshua Brent Moore, died from complications caused by alcoholism at the age of 32.
“Josh was homeless for about 10 years of his adult life, but while he was on the streets, he took care of everyone,” Nahhas said. “If he got food or money, he shared it with everyone in his street family. The people who weren’t able to take care of themselves physically, he would protect them or help them out.”
The Nahhases created Josh’s Heart in their son’s memory to help people afflicted by addiction and homelessness and raise awareness in the community.
“We knew we had to keep his legacy alive,” Nahhas said. “Within a half hour of his passing, we came up with the idea of Josh’s Heart, and that’s how it started.”
In its first year, the organization gave away 135 backpacks, including 80 to Hiram Johnson High School students filled with notebooks donated by the Hornet Bookstore.
Over the years, Sac State has supported the Nahhases efforts through donations, volunteers, and expertise. Social media-savvy Business students offered advice for improving the nonprofit’s Instagram posts, Nahhas said.
“Our idea is to connect with the people who are on the streets,” Nahhas said. “We want to get to know them. We look them in the eye and tell them our names and ask their names. If they’re willing to tell their story, we hear their story.
“It’s a connection and a reminder that they matter … We want to give them dignity.”
The CEC’s goal is to collect enough essential items for 200 backpacks. The center also needs 30 volunteers to assemble packets in the morning during the day of service, and 30 more to distribute them.
“That’s where the love really comes in, getting to connect with them as people and ask about them and who they are,” Branch said.
Like Nahhas, Branch knows what it’s like to have a loved one who is homeless.
“Every bag I’m giving out is like I’m giving it to my brother,” Branch said. “My brother has gone through addiction and homelessness in his life, so I understand the concern and the kind of hardships they face. I know what it’s like to have someone you love that’s out there, and you want to do more.
“We can’t save everyone, but we can do something.”
Donated items can be dropped off between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday until Feb. 14 at the Community Engagement Center office, in room 4028 on the fourth floor of the University Library.
Volunteers can sign up for the Love in Action day of service to fill backpacks from 10 a.m. to noon on Feb. 18, followed by distribution in area parks from 1 to 3 p.m.
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