The girl from the Rape Crisis Center called me back today. I had left a message that I was interested in hearing her “wish list”, supplies that her agency uses on a daily basis. As she read off her needs, I could picture each of the items not just being used, but being extremely significant in a moment of crisis.
“We need gallon ziplock bags to put together emergency care kits,” she explained. It is easy to imagine that soaps, shampoo and new socks would be appreciated, but as she spoke further, my mental image became more detailed. “We need Kleenex for our counseling offices. Also, it is getting colder now, so it would be really helpful to get hooded sweatjackets.” I envisioned a counselor or volunteer offering a tissue to someone in tears, or the hoodie to someone needing comfort. It made me want to corner the hoodie market, and buy all of Walmart’s Kleenex supply, so that every one of their clients would have these small gestures of support.
Buying items of necessity for non-profits does a couple of different things. Most obviously, it saves them money, because they don’t have to spend their dollars to get the needed supplies. Of course, it also saves them time going to the store, so that they can be more available for direct programs.
But the reason I most like getting a charity’s wish list is to help with awareness. The public sometimes doesn’t have a full grasp of what it takes to run a non-profit. I remember when I volunteered at the CSRA Humane Society, I was blown away at how much kitty litter it took to run that no-kill shelter! They would send a couple of strong volunteers to the store in a truck, and when they returned, it was all hands on deck to help unload and put up the supplies: gallons of bleach, huge containers of food, heavy slabs of bagged kitty litter and large boxes of laundry soap. Think of how much we all dread shopping for the two or three pets we have at home, and multiply it times 100! It’s quite an expensive ordeal.
Knowing this, many volunteers started getting in the habit of picking up extra pet supplies while at the store for themselves, and would bring some of these items with them when they came to work at the shelter. It was such a blessing! I thought, let’s get everyone in the habit of doing this for the causes that are important to them. We all go to the store several times a week (Target is my personal mother-ship), so with a little encouragement, perhaps we will think to toss a few extra essentials into the basket.
During the holidays, when non-profits feel the strain of helping families more than ever, it is an ideal time for volunteers like you and me to keep a few charity wish list items on our radar. That is why, for the past couple of years, I have coordinated a drive for my dealership called “15 Gifts of Christmas”, a chance to people to buy presents for the charities. We put a huge Santa sled in the showroom, and put out decorative bins for visitors to drop their donations. Here is a past blog about the project: https://angelamaskey.com/2011/12/16/73/ .
We are finalizing the 15 items we will collect for agencies this year, but in the meantime, here are some thought-starters for your consideration. Some are holiday-based-any charity helping families needs toys- while others are year-round essentials. So the next time you pass by the aisle with kleenex, soaps, or hoodies, consider tossing a couple extra items in for donations. Or consider getting your church or civic club to do a group donation drive. No matter what time of year it is, you can bring the gifts to the dealership and we will make sure they go to a good home.
Ronald McDonald House always needs: paper towels, laundry detergent, 10 oz. insulated cups, twin/queen mattress covers(cloth, washable), laundry baskets, toilet paper, games. Salvation Army needs twin sheet sets, laundry soaps, small toiletry items. SafeHomes needs stuffed animals, diapers and baby care items. Heritage Academy needs hard-backed books, especially for grades 3-8. And finally, ALL non-profits need office supplies!
I look forward to hearing what you think about the non-profit wish list idea, and to seeing the Santa Sled fill to the brim!