Group harnesses Harry Potter fandom to help community

In the wizarding world of Harry Potter, magic can be used to achieve fantastic things.

But in Johnson County, young people don’t need magic to do good. Instead, they are harnessing the power of their fandom to benefit the community around them.

The Greenwood Burrow, a local chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance organized by the Greenwood Public Library, has spent the past two years both celebrating their interest in the fantasy series and joining forces to serve the people around them. For every Harry Potter trivia night or Hogwarts-themed party, the group has helped collect socks for sick foster children.

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Later in August, they’ll gather food, cleaning supplies, travel crates and other items for the Johnson County Humane Society called Fantastic Beasts and How to Help Them.

“It encourages people to join together in their communities to better them,” said Josie Myers, reference librarian at Greenwood. “It’s not just Harry Potter, it’s any literary hero that you can emulate and take with you.”

The Harry Potter Alliance is an international effort to inspire activism in local communities by embracing the power of story.

Founded in 2005, the organization has brought together millions of people to donate their time and talents, working on projects focused on equality, human rights and literacy, among other initiatives.

Greenwood Public Library learned about the group’s efforts, and thought it would make for a great way to attract library patrons in the 18- to 30-year-old age group.

“We know that Harry Potter was popular with our generation, so we knew that it would bring people in. But we also heard about the alliance and wanted to find other ways to get people together in that sort of way,” said Jessica Smith, teen librarian at the Greenwood library. “We also wanted to give the members of our teen group a place to go once they graduated out of that teen setting, so they had a way to move up and still be part of the library.”

The Greenwood Burrow started in September of 2017. Since that time, organizers have put together a wide range of activities and service projects for the group to participate in.

Trivia nights have tested fans’ knowledge of everything Harry Potter. The Magical Night at Hogwarts invited people to come make wands, play Pictionary and take part in a game called Quidditch Pong. Monthly meetings are held at the library as well as local businesses such as Planetary Brewing.

In February, the group organized a Dobby Sock Drive for Resources of Hope, a Whiteland organization that provides clothing and other items to foster families in need. The drive ended up collecting 316 pairs of socks.

“We’ve done a little bit of everything,” said Aubrey Watson, reference librarian and volunteer coordinator. “We’ve had a lot of fun just brainstorming, since we’re pretty big fans. We have fun just throwing out ideas.”

The pet supply drive for the Humane Society was driven by the members of the Greenwood Burrow themselves. They identified the animal assistance organization as a place they wanted to focus on, and Greenwood Public Library organizers envisioned an event around the Potter-verse book “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”

The event is open to public; people can simply come by on Aug. 17 with food, cat litter, cleaning supplies and other items. Organizers will have activities such as a Harry Potter-themed pet costume contest, face painting, yard games and more.

They also plan to host another service project sometime over the winter.

“Working with the Humane Society has been really great, so we hope to get a lot of donations,” Myers said.

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Fantastic Beasts and How to Help Them

What: A Harry Potter-themed benefit in support of the Johnson County Humane Society. Organizers will be collecting supplies to benefit homeless animals.

Who: The Greenwood Burrow, the Greenwood Public Library’s chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance

When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 17

Where: Greenwood Public Library, 310 S. Meridian St.

What’s needed:

Animal supplies

  • Cat chow, kitten chow, puppy chow
  • IAMS mini chunk morsels
  • Wet food — Friskies pate, Cesar dog food
  • Clumping cat litter
  • Litter pans
  • Travel crates of all sizes

Cleaning supplies

  • Clorox wipes
  • Odoban
  • Trash bags (4, 13 and 30 gallon)
  • Dawn
  • Bleach
  • Laundry detergent
  • Dishwasher detergent

Office supplies

  • White or colored paper
  • New pocket folders
  • Manila file folders