"Our belief is that you would buy the kid a pair of shoes if you only knew they needed it, you just have no idea that they did," says Purposity founder Blake Canterbury

By Rachel DeSantis
May 01, 2020 03:06 PM
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Credit: Courtesy Purposity

With millions of Americans stuck inside under stay-at-home orders, it can be difficult to find ways to help our neighbors amid the coronavirus pandemic — a time when people need the help more than ever.

Enter Purposity, an app co-founded by Blake Canterbury, who tells PEOPLE his goal is a platform for people to prove that humanity really is good.

Purposity, a portmanteau of purpose and generosity, partners with local schools and nonprofits, which submit needs such as new shoes or tablets that people can fulfill on the app through donations.

“These schools and nonprofits have our app and they can walk into a house and see where a kid’s sleeping and enter a need for a bed in real time,” he says. “Or if a kid walks into a classroom with holes in their shoes, they can enter that need. Our belief is that you would buy the kid a pair of shoes if you only knew they needed it, you just have no idea that they did.”

The Atlanta-based Canterbury, 35, was working at a small creative agency when Haiti was hit by a devastating earthquake in 2010, and after he was called on to run social media for a disaster relief organization, he quit his job and never looked back, instead dedicating himself to “leveraging tech for good.”

Blake Canterbury
| Credit: Ben Rollins

Purposity was born in 2017 when a homeless liaison who’d seen kids going home hungry reached out, and it launched in November 2018 in Atlanta, Denver and Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Canterbury says that as his team conducted interviews, he found that more and more people expressed interest in helping others, but were typically limited to either large donations with no clue who they were individually helping, or volunteering for an organization.

“For us, that was the light-bulb moment,” he says. “We said, 'Why in 2020 can we watch food get delivered to our door in real time, but we have no idea if a family two streets from us has clothes to wear or food to eat tonight?'”

Credit: Courtesy Purposity

He cites the story of a formerly homeless couple and their two children as an example of the good Purposity can serve, as the app helped outfit their new home with everything from silverware to bunk beds for their two sons.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a kid when they’re 6 years old and the first time they’ve ever had their own bed for the first time, but the look on that kid’s face will break you in the best way possible,” he says. “They ran in, turned around and ran back to me and gave me, a total stranger, a big hug and they just said thank you.”

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Canterbury says the app — which handles everything on the backend, including fulfillment — has really picked up during the pandemic, and that they’ve seen an uptick in needs for things like food and baby supplies.

Purposity is currently partnering with organizations in 114 different cities, though the company is now allowing school districts and nonprofits to sign up from anywhere in the country.

“It’s just people understanding what being a neighbor is. And realizing that people are living paycheck to paycheck, and it’s hard,” he says. “You can’t buy your way to happiness, but when you do, when you being to do things for other people, when you live generously, you begin to find purposes in your own lives.”

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