A community donation warehouse is serving the needs of United Way agencies and their recipients through collecting and distributing much-needed goods, but also by providing volunteering opportunities to those in community programs who are looking to give back.
The warehouse launched in early 2020 in partnership with local businesses and individuals looking to make in-kind donations.
A small portion of the items received are used for United Way community auctions that raise revenue for the community investment fund, but most are distributed to partner agencies to share with program recipients or to support agency operations.
The warehouse collects, stores and distributes everything that frontline agencies may need to do their critical work, including housewares, cleaning supplies, hygiene items, bedding, arts and crafts supplies, toys and games, electronics and appliances, and sporting and outdoor items. It also played a key role in distributing personal protective equipment to agencies through the pandemic.
The donation warehouse is located in the back of a community living agency that enriches the quality of life of more than 400 people with developmental and physical disabilities each year through employment supports, supportive living in 30 residential facilities and on-site and off-site programming.
“We are so happy to partner with the United Way on space for sorting, storing and distributing donations,” said Emily at the agency. Not only does it help those in the community who benefit from the donated items, but it provides volunteering opportunities for those served by the community living agency.
“Many of our clients want to contribute and stay busy and get a sense of independence. Sending them out into the community during COVID has been difficult, but this is a safe, supportive environment.”
The hope is to eventually have other community living groups bring people to the warehouse to volunteer.
“It’s fantastic because it supports United Way in giving to the community and enriches the lives of our clients, too.”
The household provisions collected and distributed by the warehouse have been a valuable addition to the work of a local agency dedicated to youth mentorship, particularly for vulnerable populations. United Way funding is a key reason the agency can provide one-on-one and group supports to more than 2,000 young people each year.
“An opportunity like the community warehouse lets us expand our services to offer tangible goods to families in need that we support,” said Natalie at the agency. “Without the United Way and other community partners, we just don’t have the capacity to do that.”
Families who wish to take part in the United Way’s Holiday Helping Hand program provide a wish list broken down by age, gender and personal interest.
In 2021, the program gave a Christmas to 20 families, a number that grows every year, says Natalie. Recipient families says that without that holiday support, there would be no presents under the tree.
“The halls around our office as we get closer to Christmas really do look like Santa’s workshop getting ready for Christmas Eve,” she says.
“Our team who work directly with the families tell me that it’s a really amazing time when the families actually come to pick up their holiday boxes. There are tears flowing when they actually see a pile of goods from strangers that are all for them. It’s just Christmas magic.”
Volunteers installed new heavy duty metal shelving and rebuilt some of the existing shelves to maximize the storage and organization within the two large bays of the warehouse.
Dimitri, who owns a carpentry business, agreed right away to lead the effort because he believes in the work of the United Way.
Dimitri and a few others worked a total of about 60 hours on the project.
The impact of the United Way and its funded agencies is important to Dimitri because he wishes he had had access to community programs when he was growing up.
“I am successful and life is good for me now and I want to help people who are struggling. Life should get better for everyone.”
Dimitri thinks about his volunteering in terms of the Boy Scout tradition of holding branches for those trekking behind.
“It’s the same in life. We should all be thinking about what we can do help future generations and make it easier for them now.”