Collin’s Bros Make a Difference Alumni Spotlight:
Interviewer: Kelsey Nevius
The Collin’s brothers are from Gridley, IL, and in 2011 they kicked started their charity, “Collin’s Bros Difference.” The goal of this charity is to raise money to buy Christmas presents for children in Central Illinois who might otherwise have a gift-less Christmas. I sat down with Brandon (25), Colton (23) and Cody (18) to find out a little more about their charity.
Kelsey: So tell me a little bit about yourselves.
Brandon: We are all from Gridley, IL. After high school and graduating in 2006, I joined the Air Force and was there for 6 years. I got out of the Air Force last August and then enrolled at Heartland Community College. At Heartland, I completed my business prerequisites and now I am at Illinois State University in their M.B.A. program and I am working towards my Master’s in Business Administration.
Cody: I just graduated from high school last year and I am currently attending the Illinois Central College for Accounting.
Colton: I graduated in 2011 from Illinois Central College with my Graphic Arts Associates degree. I am currently working retail and trying to go from there.
Kelsey: So Brandon, what brought you to Heartland Community College?
Brandon: I knew that I eventually wanted to get my Master’s in Business at Illinois State University. I already had my Bachelor’s in Homeland Security and went through that with the Air Force, but since I wanted my Master’s in Business I needed to get my business prerequisites so that is why I am to Heartland. I heard it was a great school and great from transferring over to Illinois State University.
Kelsey: Tell me a little bit about how your charity got started.
Brandon: So it all got started in 2010. That was the first year. I emailed my brother TJ saying that I wanted to buy an XBOX for a family. The parents could not really provide for them at the time for Christmas. We contacted the family and found out that they did not want an XBOX. They needed some clothes and some other toys so we ended up just buying for one family with three kids that year. We all put our money together and it was around $300 and then we all went out shopping on Black Friday. We wrapped them ourselves and we delivered them. That was the first year and it has been growing ever since.
Kelsey: Have you always been interested in nonprofit work?
Brandon: Growing up and when I was in high school I did not really volunteer a whole lot in different charities. So I would not say I am dedicated to any other organizations.
Cody: We have done it more off and on. At the Gridley Community Center if they needed our help we would go up and help them for a little bit but other than that nothing major.
Kelsey: Did you guys just see this opportunity with your charity and decided to jump on it?
Brandon: Yes. We kind of liked that this was our own thing and we are in control of it. Other bigger charities take some money off of each donation and use it to pay for other expenses. That makes sense for bigger charities to do that but all of our expenses are paid out of our own pockets. We get to see the families who the presents go to and hear their stories too. We get to keep everything personal and we like that about it. So the families tell us their stories, we can read about them, talk about them, and we get that personally feeling. Then we get to deliver them and get to later see pictures of the kids opening presents.
Kelsey: Can you relate any of your studies from Heartland that have helped you run your charity?
Brandon: I think so. I took Financial and Managerial Accounting both at Heartland and it has helped with the whole process of keeping track of everything and using Excel spreadsheets, balancing debits and credits. I think that has helped a lot.
Kelsey: What is next for the Collin’s Brothers Make a Difference?
Brandon: So we had the golf outing on September 7th of this year.
Kelsey: Was this the first year for the outing?
Brandon: Yes this was our first year for the golf outing. We plan on making it an annual event. On September 7th we raised $8,000 from the outing, silent auction and the rib eye steak dinner. We also got a $2,000 grant from Walmart in Normal. Also, for my wedding have you ever heard of a Dash for Cash?
Kelsey: No I don’t think so.
Brandon: So weddings you can do a dash for cash where one song is played and the DJ makes an announcement and the bride and groom run around. It is a competition between the husband and wife. You run around and collect the money from all of your guests. Then whoever has the most money between the husband and wife wins. What it is normally used for is to kind of pay for the wedding or honeymoon. My wife Casey and I decided to donate the money towards the charity. We raised about $1,000. So we have raised $11,000 this year so far.
Kelsey: When do you guys start buys your presents?
Cody: Usually it is Black Friday night and it goes all day. We spent the whole night shopping.
Brandon: It takes about 13 hours.
Kelsey: Are there any other events that you guys put on to raise money?
Brandon: No. We usually have one big fundraiser a year and then we still take personal donations or donations from businesses. Every once in a while we speak at the Kiwanis Club in El Paso, Illinois and ask for donations just trying to get the word around. One big charity event is all we do.
Kelsey: Do you have a website?
Brandon: We do not have a website but we do have a Facebook page.
Kelsey: Where people can submit donations? Or is there an address they can mail in donations to?
Brandon: Facebook has our address and all of our information where they can mail donations to. They can always call me, my number is on there, or email us and we can always work something out to come pick up the donation.
Kelsey: And what should people search under Facebook?
Brandon: Search “Collins Bros Difference”