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'They're just so grateful that we are noticing them and helping them': Hamburgers for Homeless takes on heightened importance during pandemic

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Hamburgers for Homeless

MADISON (WKOW) -- What started as an idea to feed individuals experiencing homelessness has transformed into more than just buying and distributing hamburgers.

In the midst of a global pandemic in which those without homes are experiencing additional hardship, the founders of 'Food for Madison' say the initiative is also about providing hope.

"Letting people know that we see them, we care," Aidan Niermeyer, freshman at UW Madison said.

The initiative launched three years ago when Niermeyer pitched the idea of buying hamburgers for the homeless to his friends Emma Maas and Sarah Badger. Both were on board.

"I was like: 'I am down for this. This is something great we can do to help others,'" Badger said.

So, the three friends from Waunakee began raising money to purchase hamburgers and other goods.

"Getting it started and getting those first few hundred dollars that first year was really inspiring," Mass said.

Three years later, 'Food for Madison' is going strong. This year, the group raised $1,200, which they used to buy goods to donate to Porchlight, an organization that helps people experiencing homelessness, and hamburgers to distribute in Downtown Madison.

"To come out and be able to do this and help those in the community, it's amazing," Mass said.

The group said feedback from recipients of hamburgers was also amazing.

"They're just so grateful that we are noticing them and helping them," Badger said.

"I think that, sometimes, a warm meal is enough to make someone's day," Niermeyer said. "Lots of thank you's, smiles. I think they really appreciate it--especially today with the snow and the cold."

In these cold winter months, the group hopes their efforts inspire others to perform small acts of kindness.

"It doesn't matter your age or where you are from, Anyone can put something together to make a difference in people's lives," Niermeyer said.

Before packing up and heading home for the day, the group made one last stop to the East Madison Community Center. There, they distributed the remainder of the food to kids.

"I think its wonderful for young people to do things like that," Cynthia Walton-Jackson, volunteer at East Madison Community Center said. "We are so glad they thought of us."

A link for Food for Madison's GoFundMe page can be found here for anyone who would like to donate to the cause.