By Elizabeth Neuner | LSU Student
Louisiana State University students Garrett Collins, Russell Collins and David Jones are working on getting more than just a degree. They are also aiming to make history through philanthropy.
"I contacted David Jones before the start of school and asked him if he wanted to help organize the largest exercise class in history in Tiger Stadium," said Garrett Collins. "At the same time I asked him if he would like to start a nonprofit organization with me."
Russell Collins collaborated with his brother and started the Genesis Nonprofit along with Jones, former student government president candidate. Genesis hosts free bootcamp-style workouts every Wednesday on the parade grounds.
"We want people to work out with Genesis and to enjoy the weather while we still can," Garrett Collins said. "We hope these exercise classes help us reach more students and grow as an organization.
The men behind Genesis hope for more than just a healthy LSU campus, which was recently ranked by Newsweek as the second healthiest school in the country.
"Our goal is to bring together Baton Rouge," Collins said. "Soon we will feed entire communities living in poverty."
One way of reaching this goal has already been established by Russell Collins and Southside Produce Market. The Baton Rouge store agreed to let Genesis to take the excess produce at the end of each workday for donation to the needy as soon as the legalities are worked out.
"It's been running in my head for a long time now," Russell Collins said. "I see a need for urban agriculture.
Russell Collins hopes to build an entire network of local stores donating not only canned foods but produce and meat and foods aren't donated just because of a surplus.
"I've worked in food pantries," Russell Collins said. "And the stuff is already gone bad by the time it gets there."
The Collins brothers and Jones are serious and, if starting a legal nonprofit wasn't proof enough, they also are hoping to bring in a local celebrity for help.
"Right now I'm trying to get Shaq [NBA star Shaquille O'Neal] on board," Garrett Collins said.
Genesis has started to reach out to the basketball star through Twitter and sending him letters. Garrett Collins has also been in contact with former LSU basketball coach, Dale Brown.
"He emailed me saying he would relay my request to Shaq," Garrett Collins said. "I'm scheduled to meet Coach Brown next week."
Garrett Collins doesn't just see this as an opportunity to break records and rub elbows with the rich and famous.
"My mission is to improve the lives of people," Garrett Collins said. "It would be a dream come true if I was able to make a lasting impact."
The Genesis founders also hope their fellow LSU students join them in helping to deliver food, joining the exercise program and bring awareness of hunger in Baton Rouge.
"We want Baton Rouge to be a beacon," Jones said. "You don't have to be in a organization. People can start their own genesis."
All of the members of Genesis agree that their nonprofit is about community.
"This is a chance to really bring everyone together," said Russell Collins. "And to make everyone feel as one like brothers and sisters because that's really what they are."
Ricky Castro, an LSU student, joined the Collins brothers and Jones at their first workout Wednesday evening,
"I think [Genesis] is awesome," Castro said. "It's people giving back to the community. It's really generous. Not everyone thinks about others."
While they may be few in number for now, Jones knows that Genesis will soon grow and spread.
"Nothing happens over night," Jones said. "That's why it's called Genesis because it means new beginnings."
Jones said Genesis' next event besides its weekly workouts is the Community Literacy Carnival on October 16. This carnival is companioned with the NCAA.
"Our goal is to put an age appropriate book in the hands of every child that attends," Jones said.
Though they have large goals for the future, the Genesis founders all said change begins in one person on any day and spreads through a community that is willing to work together.
"Today can be the day that we all decide peace and social harmony depends on our willingness to make sure everyone is looked after," Garrett Collins said.