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First Step

It’s a cliché to say that small amounts of something – effort, votes, dollars – can make a huge difference in the world.

But it wouldn’t be a cliché if it wasn’t true.

Matt Shipman, a public communication specialist in the university’s News Services office, is pleasantly surprised by the impact his “small contribution” makes monthly for Interact, a Wake County nonprofit organization that provides services for victims of domestic violence, rape and sexual assault. His effort to collect much-needed items for women and children utilizing Interact services has been embraced by an ever-expanding network of NC State employees. In just 14 months, Shipman conservatively estimates that NC State employees have donated more than $3,000 in goods to the shelter. His efforts earned him a mention as one of Real Simple’s “5 Inspiring People Who Give Gifts of Time.”

Matt Shipman with toiletries collected for Interact
Matt Shipman has connected with colleagues and friends to collect supplies for Interact shelter.

Shipman was raised by a single mom who is a social worker in southern Virginia. She is very involved in the community and served on the advisory board for the women’s shelter in his hometown. With this upbringing – and two daughters of his own – Shipman understands the importance of supporting the women’s shelter in his own community.

Relatively new to the Triangle, Shipman didn’t have a lot of local contacts when he devised his plan early last year to collect goods needed by the shelter. It began as a personal attempt to make a difference. But he quickly realized that he could tap into some of the people he meets and works with every day on campus.

“As a person who constantly meets new people – professors, graduate students and staff – in order to promote the great things happening at NC State, I thought I could enlist some others to join me in my small effort to help Interact,” he said.

Shipman’s effort – titled First Step Project N.C. – uses e-mail and social media tools like Facebook to keep donators informed of the shelter’s monthly needs and his collection schedule. He crosses campus making collections – although some donators bring goods to the News Services office on Varsity Drive – and then loads all items up and drops them off at Interact about once a month.

The shelter’s needs are constant, says Mandy Rucker of Interact. Common household goods, clothes, even simple items like toilet paper are in demand for battered or abused women trying to escape dangerous surroundings and reclaim their lives.

“Our shelter facilitates up to 45 people total at one time, so imagine how much one person uses a month and multiply that by 45,” Rucker says. “Items on our shelter needs list, such as toiletries and sometimes items like electric bedside lamps or alarm clocks or umbrellas, are transported directly to our residential shelter counseling program. So the items Matt brings to us on a regular basis go directly to our clients.”

Other donated items go to thrift stores – Pass It On, Fuquay-Varina, and Pass It On Too, Raleigh – where they are sold to the public to generate funding for Interact’s free services for survivors and victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, Rucker says. “One hundred percent of our proceeds goes into the services and contributes greatly each month to Interact’s mission.”

Shipman’s last donation run occurred right before Christmas. While a large number of other donors unloaded their holiday goods, Rucker greeted Shipman by saying, “Please tell me you brought toilet paper!”

He had, of course. Seventy-six rolls.

If you’re interested in contributing to First Step Project N.C., contact Shipman at or follow the links below. To volunteer your time with Interact, visit the Web site and click on “Volunteer.”

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