The Obamas’ National Day of Service

Recently, the Obamas called on Americans to participate in service projects in honor of Martin Luther King Jr Day.  So my son and I signed up to help at a local goods bank in our city.  A goods bank is like a food bank only with furniture, clothing, etc. for needy families.

About eight years ago, Donna Hunnewell, came up with the idea after sitting through a years worth of meetings of our local Hunger and Homelessness Commission and hearing case workers talk about how much time it took them to track down things like cribs and couches for their clients.  Donna decided that while she could never work directly with the clients herself (she told us, “I’d sit there crying all day if I did that”), she did know that she could gather used furniture and clothes for the caseworkers so they could concentrate on doing their real job, helping these families with job training, housing, health care, and education issues.

Here is Donna, speaking at our volunteer event yesterday:

0119091124

At first Donna began informally, using her porch and garage as a holding space for goods, which she delivered in her van.  Then she moved operations to a mini-storage unit, then several units and finally a warehouse.  This past year her Lowell Wish Project surpassed the one million dollars in goods mark and has now served over 27,000 clients, including 600 families that received an entire house full of furniture, right down to the shower curtains and pots and pans.  Remarkably, she and her volunteers can now pull together a whole house full of furniture, etc.,  in just 20 minutes!

So, my son and I arrived and were amazed to join over a hundred volunteers as we sorted donations — everything has a clearly marked place, so it’s very easy to find.  I had to crack up because we were assigned to mitten and hat duty, supremely ironic because my son and I had a rather unpleasant discussion the other day about keeping track of mittens….  SO here we were, sorting donated mittens, destined for families who could not afford to buy such things.  What luck!

0119090927

After we sorted and refilled the various bins from an extra bin in the back of the warehouse, we wandered around looking for the places where some odd items that we found really belonged (these items had somehow made their way into the girls’ hats bin by mistake).  As we walked, we saw everyone busy sorting and organizing.

0119091112

And we saw so much stuff that had been donated, almost all of which was clean and usable, if sometimes a bit, well, ur, ugly, to be honest.  As we walked by one woman with two teenagers, I heard the mom explaining, “Yeh, it’s not that attractive, I know, but if you had a bedroom window that looked right out to the street, you’d be glad to have this to cover it!”  I saw the teens nod.

0119091113

At the end of the day, Donna told us that our band of Obama-incited volunteers had in one morning accomplished what it normally takes volunteers about three months to do.  “You helped make wishes come true.  Thanks!”  She also said that her Project is responsible for reducing the local landfill input by 1%, not bad for a little organization started out of someone’s garage!  Every little bit helps.

We will be going back for sure.  This was an easy service activity for me and my son to do together, and they offer a lot of flexibility for volunteers to come lots of different times of the week, inlcuding evenings and weekends.  “Guilt-free charity” Donna calls it — come again if you want, or not.  They also sponsor 18 service projects throughout the year, including a back-to-school backpack drive.  I’m sure we will find many ways to get involved.

So, on this inauguration day, hats off to the man who inspired over a hundred people ot spend their Saturday morning in a warehouse sorting donations to help out local families in need.  It’s going to be an interesting four years.

Advertisements

4 Responses

  1. Very cool that you volunteered. We had work yesterday 😦

    At our university, they have something called “Trash to Treasure”. They take all the stuff that the students would normally throw out on move out day and instead clean it up and sell it. The money raised goes to the local United Way.

    It’s not just junk either. There is a lot of good stuff. Books, clothes, cds, movies, appliances, etc.

    Anyhow, happy Obama day 🙂

  2. Trash to treasure — that sounds good. I should try to get my school to do that, too, and the goods could go to the Wish Project here in town. Thanks for the idea!

  3. WritingGB – here a link with some info:

    http://www.trashtotreasure.psu.edu/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: