Feel-Good News

How One Young Houstonian's Passion for Helping Others Turned Into a Powerful Movement

With Clutch City Connect, Justin Sepulveda wants to help Houston's most vulnerable citizens.

By Anita Gomez December 16, 2019

WHAT STARTED AS A CHARITABLE PASTIME for Justin Sepulveda has blossomed into a growing organization that’s helped hundreds of Houstonians in just a year’s time. While training to become a firefighter at San Jacinto College, Sepulveda would venture downtown to hand out food to the homeless on holidays and other occasions. But when his brother died two years ago this month, Sepulveda took a step back and re-evaluated his life, realizing what he loved most: helping people.

That led him to establish Clutch City Connect, which coordinates monthly drop-offs at non-profits, clothing drives, school drives, and collaborations with businesses and nonprofits. His efforts began to grow back in January, when he posted a video on his personal Instagram asking people to donate blankets, sweaters, or anything that could help homeless Houstonians in the bitter cold. Within hours, he had enough blankets for 60 people.

After such a resounding response, Sepulveda began to set—and meet—weekly goals of feeding 100-150 people. Later this year, he learned about the food pantry his college had through the Houston Food Bank, which allowed any full-time students to apply for a scholarship card ranging from $600 to $900. Sepulveda didn't win the scholarship, but fortunately, his friend did—he gave him the card with $700 to go toward toiletries, hygiene products, canned food, water, and more that he could distribute to nonprofits around the city.

On March 5, Sepulveda officially launched Clutch City Connect. He designed 100 T-shirts to raise money for his efforts—to his surprise, he sold out in the first 24 hours. Now he offers three different designs that all rep H-Town, and he's working on becoming an official 501(c)(3) by January 2020.

Since then, Sepulveda's small organization has made big strides in the community. Some of Clutch City's most impressive feats include securing 83 bags full of clothes for The Beacon, providing school supplies for an entire year to 406 students at Ronald P. Harris Elementary, and sponsoring 46 students within 72 hours for a holiday toy drive at Today's Harbor for Children, a foster home in La Porte.

"Nothing can beat that feeling," Sepulveda says. "It makes you appreciate the little things in life, and there's no greater feeling than seeing the smile on these people's faces."

Most recently, Sepulveda and his team handed out over 500 blankets to the homeless and are currently working on a new toy drive with Shriners Hospital for Children of Galveston. TeamFit, Sepulveda's brother's Pasadena gym, is accepting donations on the children's wishlist until Dec. 21.

Once Clutch City becomes an official nonprofit, Sepulveda hopes to do more than just dole out care packages—he wants his organization to help people get back on their feet and get the assistance they need to find homes and jobs. Clutch City will also write grant letters to organizations, help with extra-curricular activities for low-income students, and continue planning and hosting drives, drop-offs, and events around the city for fellow Houstonians in need.

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