Cole Hook

Sr. Emily Byrnes woke up Saturday morning ready to start her day. She was supposed to meet her friend for coffee in an hour – a weekly routine. She hopped in her car and started the trek to the local Starbucks. One turn away from coffee paradise, the light turned yellow. Byrnes slowed to a stop, only to see a heart-wrenching sight. At the corner of Riley and West Shore Dr. stood a rugged old man. His scraggly beard went all the way down to the sign in his dirty hands. The sign read “Anything helps. GOD BLESS.” She pulled out her wallet, but she quickly put it back in her pocket. Is this just a scam, or is he really needy she thought.

 Students and adults alike have this problem often. The need is obvious; however, doubt seems to cloud their mind from choosing to help. Fortunate for us, Byrnes and a team of entrepreneurs have come up with a solution.

 Recently, Byrnes attended Startup Weekend at Aquinas College. The event gave local entrepreneurs the opportunity to present their startup business ideas in teams. Byrnes’ team consisted of mostly college age students, with a couple adults with children competing as well. There were multiple prizes including the grand prize of $20,000 and 3 months of using GR Current office space for free.       

 Byrnes’ team won the grand prize for their pitch of the app called Giver. This app gives people who generously want to give homeless people money the chance to help them in a safe and easy way. Giver uses one’s credit card information to give someone in need   a code (similar to a gift card) to any store that partners with Giver. “So I take my credit card number. Say I want to give $25. I click on “Give Now” [which produces a code], and that’s the code that I am now giving someone else,” Byrnes said.The code produced by the app will be accepted by the store you designate as a gift card for $25. But if the person doesn’t go to the store, Byrnes confirmed it won’t be money wasted. “If they don’t use all the money, my $25 goes back to me at the end of 48 hours. Anything they don’t use will go back to you,” Byrnes said.


 Because only the prototype for the actual app has only been created, one cannot yet find it on iTunes. But Byrnes assures that it will eventually be available for free on the iTunes App Store. In the conceptual stages of launching the app to the public, Byrnes’ team does not have any stores that they have partnered with; however, they plan to partner with places like Walgreens and Meijer. Once the app is created and available, any store that has partnered with them will be found by simply entering one’s zip code.


I know what question might have come to your mind when I said Walgreens and Meijer as places they are looking to partner with – don’t those stores sell prescription drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes? The answer is yes, but the good news is Byrnes and her team have already thought of that. Not only is the code only good for 48 hours, but there are restrictions on what the person receiving the code can purchase. “Say [a homeless person] wants to use [the code] at Walgreens. Our restrictions prevent them from buying any prescription drugs, any alcohol, or cigarettes,” says Byrnes. There will be no fear in your mind that the virtual money you gave them will feed an alcohol addiction.

 Even though this is just the beginning of a great idea, already things are starting to fall into place for Byrnes’ team. She says they each plan on working an astonishing 50 hours a week to make this dream a reality. “We want to be able to make it useable in every town that has people in need in it,” Byrnes said.

 As just seniors in high school, WO students are starting to make a difference in our community and the world. Keep an eye out for the new innovative app: Giver.