“BigMike” Straumietis, most widely known as the founder and CEO of Advanced Nutrients, was back in Downtown Los Angeles on December 18 with his nonprofit Humanity Heroes, which takes a hands-on approach to help ease the suffering of the homeless. They were there for the organization’s seventh annual holiday donation drive, distributing 2,000 Humanity Packs directly to the residents of Skid Row—LA’s most impoverished neighborhood. From toothpaste and toothbrushes to sunscreen, gloves and tarps, each backpack is stuffed with 21 non-perishable items that the homeless community desperately needs. In addition to the backpacks, Humanity Heroes also handed out warm dinners, blankets, pet food and toys for the kids.
Humanity Heroes launched in December 2012 in Bulgaria as “Holiday Heroes,” before being rebranded in 2019. BigMike’s idea for the nonprofit was spurred by his own personal experiences, in addition to having a strong desire to help those in need. To date, BigMike’s charity efforts have resulted in non-perishable food donations to Skid Row totaling more than $600,000.
Not All Heroes Wear Capes
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Humanity Heroes’ efforts to help the homeless are proving to be especially impactful. According to the 2020 Census, Skid Row’s population has risen to 9,9092 people—a 20% increase from 2019. And at least 4,000 people in Skid Row are homeless on a permanent basis. The recent Census figures also show that the greater city of Los Angeles saw a 16.1% rise in homelessness last year, bringing the total number of those needing shelter to 41,290.
A report co-authored by Randall Kuhn, associate professor of community health sciences at UCLA, highlights the vulnerability of homeless people during the pandemic. “Homeless people are twice as likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 and two to three times more likely to die than the general population,” the report concludes.
For BigMike, it’s not enough to talk about making a difference. He is loud and proud in his message of direct-action philanthropy and believes all prosperous corporations are responsible for giving back.
“If a company is successful, they have an obligation to give back directly to the community in which they get their money and society as a whole,” said BigMike, whose company Advanced Nutrients has given close to one million dollars in cash and nutrients to stores devastated by wildfires.
“It’s important that we come together as a voice and that people understand that cannabis isn’t just a bunch of people running around and getting high,” BigMike said. “We’re a serious business, a serious community, and we must be taken seriously; it shows a different side of cannabis than what people think.”
Dedicated to Growing the Community
What started as a small group of people who wanted to make a difference has grown into a city-recognized non-profit that attracts celebrities like West Coast rapper Xzibit and the interest of mainstream media including KTLA Channel 5 News for its annual Humanity Pack campaign.
This year, BigMike and Humanity Heroes donated an extra 5,000 Humanity Packs to cities nationwide suffering from high rates of chronic homelessness, as well as two California-based nonprofits, My Friends House and Covenant House.
Interested in getting involved? BigMike has some advice: “Go to our website, joinhumanityheroes.org. Whenever we have a campaign, we are out there posting on social media giving everybody a heads up. Get the details and volunteer or give back.”