Donor Spotlight: Deborah Kupetz

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We get tremendous satisfaction learning about our supporters, and especially what motivates them to do good in our community. In this post, we are delighted to talk with Deborah Kupetz, a passionate entrepreneur who founded dkkevents. Her unwavering kindness towards helping students experiencing homelessness has inspired us to share her story. 

Where are you from, and what do you do?

I was born and raised in West Los Angeles. I started dkkevents, the first green event company in 2007. We work nationally doing social, nonprofit, and corporate events. I recently launched www.recenterpiece.com. A“Recenterpiece” is  a reusable produce based centerpiece that is then donated to food banks and food distribution agencies. So it’s a system of reusable centerpieces.

What attracted you to the cause of student homelessness?

When our daughters were younger, we often paired their birthday celebrations with some philanthropic activity. When they were around 14, a friend of mine was running an organization called Hollywood Arts that provided arts programming for homeless youth in Hollywood, which I thought was amazing.  We put together an afternoon where within a one-mile radius, we walked all around Hollywood and saw the resources that existed for homeless teens, like shelters, medical centers and arts programming, which was very impactful for them. It’s very important to put homelessness in context. Helping my kids and their friends realize that the teenagers with backpacks who looked just like them might be living in a much different reality was a powerful activation.

dkkevents, has always been focused on reuse and how to extend the benefits of celebrations. Our operating principles are based on being environmentally sensitive, creating community and social action. We have had the chance to integrate a lot of community service into our various events. A client/friend Lauren Schiff is a member of the SAM Initiative and took me to a pitch event.

What attracted you to Bruin Shelter, in particular?

At the presentation of the SAM Initiative, I was blown away by what the students had created, their passion, and their vision. When I learned that the shelter was in transition and had to find temporary replacement shelter, I reached out to them. Through that communication, it became apparent to me how profound a project this was. I met with the organizers of the shelter  here and thought they were magnificent and so special.

Homelessness is complicated. Getting closer to understanding it is powerful. There is a shame and hiddenness to homelessness that needs to be unmasked and reoriented.

 What was your most meaningful memory from college?

The best G-rated memories I have to share would probably center around my involvement with my college newspaper. I started in ad sales and then moved through managing editor, co-editor, and finally, publisher. It was the place where I learned to harness and direct my energy and love for collaboration and activism with others.

 What motivates you to stay involved?

In general, having a sense of purpose and collective vision and being able to execute based on that motivates me. Giving is never a 1 +1 proposition. It always leaves you feeling like 1 + 1 = 10. Engaging with great people and making a difference is what forms community and community benefits everyone.

 What might someone be surprised to know about you?

I have every journal I’ve ever written, starting with my little diaries from third grade.

 Why do you think student homelessness should be a priority for the Los Angeles community?

Many of us have incorrect, preconceived notions regarding homelessness. By raising awareness about student homelessness, we are taking steps towards altering those perspectives. Especially during this period of nefariously expensive rent prices, homelessness is often simply the understandable inability to meet those prices. It can be temporary, it doesn’t have to be chronic, yet the shame that it sometimes creates can be its own ecosystem, one that persists, even after housing is found. Homelessness comes with food insecurity and a narrowing of resources for problem-solving. We don’t understand that homelessness is incredibly dynamic. It is debilitating in ways that are more mental than physical; destroying those stigmas is the first step needed to undo the damage of homelessness.

I believe it should be our priority as a community to uplift, support, and educate our younger generations. This should be true no matter their economic or personal situation. The old saying “knowledge is power” is true: when people know that college students are without a place to live at such an important stage in their life, such awareness may be able to stop the damaging effects of homelessness before they even begin.

Thank you Deborah for being a true champion for students experiencing homelessness!

Michelle Ross