Back in 1995, Doug Aaron, a senior at GFA, included a quote with his photo in the yearbook: “Change can come from the power of many, but only when the many come together to form the invincible ... the power of one.”
The quote comes from The Power of One, a 1992 drama (based on a 1989 novel by the same name) about apartheid in 1940s South Africa, but it could just as easily pertain to Aaron himself. He realized early on that when a community comes together, big changes can happen.
“That came from GFA,” he pointed out. “When I was there, there was a strong connection with the outside community. Community service helped me understand that when you take a small step, you can make a huge impact on other people’s lives.”
After earning an undergraduate degree from Bowdoin, and later a graduate degree in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Aaron knew he wanted to continue working in the nonprofit space. Early in his career as an investor, he worked with foundations and nonprofits to oversee their endowments and portfolios, ensuring that they were in accordance with their mission. After grad school, he found himself returning to nonprofits, this time really digging down into their inner workings — from leadership to day-to-day governance. These experiences continued to draw him into the nonprofit world until eventually he started his own: Care Cooperative.
The seemingly simple mission of Care Cooperative (“to improve patients’ quality of life and community health by donating needed items to medical facilities”) encompasses a great deal of compassion in an area that Aaron feels is often overlooked: continuum of care. Care should not stop when someone leaves the doctor’s office, yet for many who are underprivileged and low-income, that’s exactly what happens. Why not provide an opportunity for the community to come together to help fill this gap?
Aaron explained: “Among the goals of Care Cooperative is to return healing to health care. I believe that one way of doing so is to focus on patients’ quality of life — not only medically, but also emotionally and socially — by ensuring that patients feel dignified and supported throughout their care, regardless of their background or condition.”
At Care Cooperative, Aaron and his small team are listening to care providers and recipients to figure out what needs are being overlooked and how to provide them. Frequently in health care, the impact of a donation may not happen for months or years. Here’s the differentiator with Care Cooperative: every item provided by Care Cooperative improves patients’ quality of life and community health right now. In addition, Care Cooperative empowers you to make this positive impact in minutes, with any donation amount.
Here’s how it works: potential donors log on to Care Cooperative and view a comprehensive list of goods and services that health care facilities have deemed critical to providing continued care. You pick the item that you want to donate, and Care Cooperative will provide and deliver the item that same week. And Care Cooperative takes no portion of the donations. “The greatest measure of respect that we can give to our donors is that 100% of what they give — every penny — is going where they want it to go. We truly deliver that promise,” Aaron said.
“Care Cooperative enables any individual to have a positive impact on someone else’s quality of life or the well-being of a community both meaningfully and quickly,” Aaron said. “We’re providing goods and services that are greatly needed, and would not have been otherwise fulfilled.”
Take, for example, a night light — a simple, everyday object that we probably take for granted. But consider the difference a night light would mean for your elderly neighbor — prone to falling — who frequently gets up in the middle of the night, and whose budget doesn’t afford such a simple solution. What about someone with a chronic condition who must decide between eating or taking the bus to a follow-up doctor’s appointment? Imagine what a simple bus pass could do for the continuum of care.
Donors can select from a range of price points as well as items and services, like: the book Tear Soup for a palliative care unit; music therapy sessions for uninsured dementia patients; breast pumps for low-income new mothers; cameras to help clinicians document abused children’s injuries for protective services; support sessions for caregivers; or camp opportunities for children with emotional, learning or neurological difficulties to play and experience the joy of childhood.
Aaron said he loves that this concept — that “the power of one” can strengthen an entire community — continues to thrive at GFA today. The way that people share perspectives and connect with each other to learn makes a difference in their awareness of the needs around them. GFA, Aaron noted, is a place where students are not only encouraged to be aware of those needs, but also to create solutions to solve them.
He said, “Students are given the opportunity to grow without boundaries or judgment at GFA. It is a community rather than simply a school, learning together to help each other.”