How one Viterbo student decided to help fight poverty


Grace Monk, Editor

“I’m pretty gifted with what I have and there’s not a lot of people who, I guess, have the privileges that I do,” shared Viterbo student Noah Nelson, a major in Sports Management. After being assigned community service hours in two of his courses, Nelson decided to start a project of his own.  

“I didn’t want to do just work at a food pantry or work with the Red Cross,” shared Nelson. “I’ve looked into doing some stuff like that but I kind of wanted to work with Couleecap.” Couleecap is a local non-profit action agency that works to combat poverty in the Coulee Region. Nelson discovered Couleecap after writing an article about the agency for the Lumen in December 2022. 

Nelson got in contact with Becky Koske from Couleecap who, according to Nelson, “mentioned how doing a needs drive [with] students is a good way to get service done … I kind of thought that I would try to integrate that into my service hours.” Nelson contacted Viterbo’s Director of Orientation and Engagement, Colin Burns-Gilbert, to begin his project.  

Nelson and Burns-Gilbert spent a month planning the event before they began promoting it. Nelson shared that the two discussed everything from “how [the] event is going to look, what is it going to be, how the connections are going to work for getting stuff to people, that sort of stuff.” Once they had the details, the pair began promoting the event across campus and on social media. Nelson shared that he got in contact with local schools to encourage parents and students to donate as well. 

Nelson’s inspiration for the project came from his own neighborhood. “It’s not the most well-off neighborhood,” shared Nelson. “We have people that come and ask for money for a cab ride or something. It’s heartbreaking to see that sort of thing.”  

While Nelson wanted to help his neighbors, he has always been passionate about fighting poverty. “Homelessness in general and people being unsheltered has been one of my main focuses because I feel like society as a whole doesn’t do enough for these people,” shared Nelson. He says that this also inspired him to write the article about Couleecap. “Last semester when I got in contact with Couleecap I learned more about the processes of how they give back and kind of what we can do to help,” said Nelson.   

The event took place on March 30 in the Fine Arts Atrium, where Nelson, Burns-Gilbert and volunteers accepted donations. Nelson estimated they had 15 to 20 people come by with donations in Bulk. “We had drawstring bags, and I think we filled up probably 40 to 50 of those,” shared Nelson. After the event concluded, Nelson continued collecting donations from community members that missed the event. The team is currently working with Independent Living Resources to distribute donations to community members in need.  

Nelson felt the event was a success and is proud of the work they accomplished. “I’ve been pretty passionate about this sort of work for a while now and just wanted to make as much of an impact as I could with this,” said Nelson. He is working with Burns-Gilbert on ways to improve the event and hopes to host it again next year.  

To learn more about fighting poverty in La Crosse, you can read Nelson’s Couleecap article at or visit Couleecap’s website at