Group hopes to enlist young people in effort
It took a trip to Florida and a time away for a local teen to appreciate his hometown, and decide to become part of the effort to make a difference. Jake Tiffany, a 19-year-old graduate of local schools is trying to get his peers not only to appreciate what the city offers, but to get involved with its upkeep.
As founder of “Don’t Waste Haven,” Tiffany has banded together many of his friends and acquaintances in an organization specifically geared toward young adults. But like many people he had to go away to realize what he had left. It was social media that gave him insight.
“I briefly moved to Florida in 2017. While I was living there, I began to see an increasing number of negative posts about West Haven,” he said. “I knew I could make a difference.”
While in the Sunshine State, he began the website, dontwastehaven.org. Then he had to create awareness. Using his entrepreneurial talents, he created an inventory of bracelets, bumper stickers and other items to sell via the Internet and he began to collect funds.
“I quickly realized I could only do so much from Florida, so I made arrangements to transfer Aldi Stores (where he is employed), and headed for Connecticut,” he said.
Another realization came when he realized he needed to get others involved. Working alone was not going to accomplish what he intended. He began the organization with friends, and in the few months the group has been together it has done some remarkable things.
Don’t Waste Haven, of course is a take-off on an epithet many residents in nearby communities heap on the city. The teen understands the meaning of the term, and he has set out to change things.
Helping keep the city clean has been a major goal. Cleanups have taken place at the Old Grove, the parking area at South Street and several beach areas. Friends Jared Richards and Dan Moran got involved, and that enlisted the help of Richards’ father, who is part of West Haven United, a conglomeration of organizations working together for common purpose.
DWH participated in the Halloween events on the Green, where the group collected donations for school supplies under the auspices of Wheels for West Haven that offers supplies for needy students.
“West Haven United has been very helpful,” Tiffany said. “We have collaborated and supported each other. We are fighting the same fight.”
At Thanksgiving four turkeys were donated to the West Haven Emergency Assistance Taskforce (WHEAT).
“While working at Aldi’s I surprised one customer with a free turkey, all in an effort to help people through the holidays,” Tiffany said.
Most recently more than $200 was collected for a second round of school supply donations. The money bought composition books, notebooks, pencils and several reams of paper. His family has got involved as well.
Glendale Farms is a family business, and his uncle donated several poinsettias to the organization, which were sent to the West Haven Community House.
Tiffany is keeping up the social media exposure, and is garnering more support and ideas from many who are keeping an eye on the organization’s work.
“We are still early in our journey, but with more exposure, we intend to attract more young people and show they can have an impact on their community,” he said.
Over the next year or 18 months, Tiffany and his group are hoping to gain a foothold in local schools, by offering some type of after-school activities in which youngsters could participate.
“Teachers and students can collaborate and brain-storm ideas to help the city. Then they can execute the projects and make a difference,” he said.
Over the next few months, Tiffany is hoping to gin up interest and membership. He’s hoping the current membership can be tripled. He’s also working toward making Don’t Waste Haven a non-profit, with chapters doing similar things in other cities.
“I want to show young people that if they stand up and get going, they have the power to make a change. Maybe if they see me do it, I could make it ‘cool,’” he said.
Jake Tiffany also had some sage advice concerning the desire to exodus one’s hometown.
“Escaping your hometown is always the way out,” he said. “You could help your community and branch outward. Something like this can create a positive ripple effect in the city that we desperately need.”