A new, local nonprofit is hoping to encourage young people to give back by transforming how millennials view community service.

“The underlying theme is to change the perception of service in the minds of young people,” Modern Hippie Director Harlan Groves said. “Community service is seen as a punishment and I want to change that.”

Modern Hippie began in 2014 as a clothing business that targeted millennials with simply designed T-shirts.

As business picked up, Groves decided he wanted to put a purpose to what he was doing.

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Earlier this year, Groves began Modern Hippie’s transformation into a social enterprise with the goal of eventually becoming a nonprofit.

The enterprise’s main goal is to inspire young people to reach out and help others by changing their perception of community service to something that can be exciting and fulfilling.

Groves said he plans to do this by speaking the millennial language through social media and providing incentives, such as free swag, for their community work.

“If we position community service in a way that’s glamorized and branded, then people will do it,” Groves said. “We want to make it so appealing that everyone wants to do it.”

While his strategy for engaging this new audience is incentive-based, Groves said that the focus is really about finding new ways to expose people to the love that comes from helping others.

The organization hopes to facilitate relationships between volunteers and the ones they’re helping with the intent to foster new habits in its participants.

“I believe deep down that all humans are channels of love and that if you tap into that, then the empathy comes and the compassion comes,” Groves said.

Modern Hippie is currently in the middle of one of its community services projects that give out water to those who may need it in the summer heat.

Stay Hydrated uses money funded through a GoFundMe to give out aluminum water bottles to people in the downtown area, with a focus on people who are homeless.

The water bottles all have a clip so that they can be easily attached to a bag and are given with access to the organization’s water coolers.

Two kids near the Chattanooga Community Kitchen received water aluminum water bottles through Modern Hippie’s Stay Hydrated campaign. (Photo: Contributed)

Modern Hippie has organized Stay Hydrated to go out into the downtown community every Tuesday and Saturday until August 11 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

“Hydration is a necessity that most take for granted but remains the key in making it through this season safely,” according to the website’s campaign description. “Some of our friends in need don’t have immediate access to water, and we want to change that.”

On the campaign’s first day, Groves said about 40 volunteers showed up—including some members of UTC’s women’s soccer team. UTC also donated some of the water and coolers used in the event.

While Modern Hippie is already working in the community, it’s just starting on its path toward becoming a full-fledged nonprofit.

Groves said he’s reaching out to other established organizations in Chattanooga to get some help with legal, accounting and other general business services to get established. Groves met with Causeway on July 18.

Those wishing to volunteer can either contact Groves by emailing [email protected] or by showing up at one of the charity events meeting points.

Stay Hyrdated meets at Olivet Baptist Church at 740 E. Martin Luther King Blvd at 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Alina Hunter-Grah is a contributing writer. She is a graduate of The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she received a bachelor’s degree in communication with a minor in political science. Alina has over three years of journalism experience including time spent with CNN and 2nd & Church, a magazine based in Nashville, Tennessee. You can reach Alina at [email protected] or on Twitter @alinahuntergrah

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