Making a difference one person at a time, state-by-state.
by Rick A. Richards
Sylwia Pilat and Egle Vaitiekute are on their second road trip of a lifetime. The two Northwest Indiana women, who met at Red Robin restaurant where they worked, are visiting 16 states in the eastern part of the country, and along the way, they’re doing a good deed in each of them. Last year, they visited six states.
Pilat and Vaitiekute solidified their friendship at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, where Vaitiekute graduated and Pilat is a senior. PUC is where they launched the We Believe Project.
The We Believe Project (www.webelieveproject.org) was created to “change people’s lives by volunteering and inspiring others to do the same,” according to its website. “The goal of We Believe Project is to create leaders in their local communities with the help of young individuals dedicated to making a difference. We believe in providing hope and inspiration in others’ lives. We believe that if we all come together we can make the world a better place.”
We Believe Project made its first big impact by raising money for East Chicago’s Nazareth Home, a ministry of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ. Using their connection at Red Robin in Schererville, Pilat and Vaitiekute organized a fundraiser that brought in $1,000 for the foster home that cares for infants and toddlers.
They also organized a jeans collection through Teen for Jeans and donated more than 427 pairs of blue jeans to residents of Rainbow Shelter in Gary and other shelters around the country.
Pilat, who is studying hospitality and tourism at PUC, and Vaitiekute, who received her diploma in marketing and communications, say their goal is simple: To make a difference one person at a time.
While on the road in New York state, the two talked by phone about We Believe Project. “We wanted to take a road trip, but instead of just having fun, we wanted to make a difference in one person’s life wherever we went,” says Pilat.
Last year, they visited six Southern states and pitched in to help in areas still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Katrina.
Pilat, who grew up in Schererville, and Vaitiekute, a native of Lithuania who immigrated to Northwest Indiana and grew up in Munster, say they have a passion for We Believe Project.
“We’ve grown tremendously in the last year,” says Vaitiekute. “Right now we’re working on getting all of the paperwork done so we can become a 501(c)3 program. At our fundraisers we want to make sure everything is legal. We want to make sure that when people donate, they know the money is going where it’s supposed to.”
“Eggie and I are traveling to all 50 states and volunteering for various organizations,” says Pilat. “We went to six states last summer and are traveling right now to 16.
“While at home, we volunteered for the Nazareth Home, we did a benefit show for the Arthritis Foundation and Teens for Jeans. ‘Change, hope and inspiration’ is our slogan that we go by, with a goal to inspire individuals all over the U.S. to volunteer for their community,” says Pilat.
This summer’s road trip for We Believe Project has taken Pilat and Vaitiekute to Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
The two women have helped with an urban farming project in Pittsburgh, a Habitat for Humanity project in Connecticut, a brain cancer awareness event in New York, at a children’s camp in Maine, and at a children’s museum in New Hampshire.
Pilat and Vaitiekute have already inspired others to get involved, creating a support team in Northwest Indiana that keeps We Believe Project’s website current and gets the word out about the organization. Vanessa Mahns is communications coordinator, Ugnus Vaitiekute is the creative director for the website and Goran Vrcel is the marketing director and photographer.
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