CRC has a very special relationship with Tim and Ronald from Progressive Directions. They’re our friends, our collaborators and our delivery boys.
Every month or so, Tim and Ronald drive the Progressive Directions truck down from Clarksville to make a pick-up at a major retailer that donates to CRC. We keep most of the household goods; Progressive Directions gets all the food and whatever else they want from the haul. But it doesn’t stop there.
When they get back to Clarksville, they start making deliveries. Not because it’s part of their job but because they’re acutely aware of other agencies in need. Last month, here’s where some of that donation went:
Mana Cafe Ministries, which feeds low-income families and the homeless.
Grace Assistance Program, which helps the poor meet basic needs such as food, utility bills, temporary emergency shelter and transportation.
Good Samaritan Ministry, which provides medical and dental services to the uninsured poor.
Progressive Directions itself used those donations in their residential programs; in its Early Intervention program, which serves preschool children with developmental delays; and in its Buddy Ball program, a special needs athletic league.
That’s a lot of love shown to a lot of people far beyond the dock doors at CRC World Headquarters.
Yes, this is just what it looks like. After years of training in professional warehouse management (not), sometimes you just have to throw caution to the winds.
Last Friday, Betsy had pretty much had it. Her daughter, Kirsten, had stayed up all night. Then Betsy’s car wouldn’t start. Then she drove out to a major retailer’s distribution center in a U-Haul to pick up a large donation. A large and partially heavy donation. It took so long to load that Betsy lost the help she thought she’d have unloading at CRC World Headquarters.
Betsy is extremely organized. Chaos makes her physically ill. But Friday, she reached her limit.
No, it is not professional warehouse management to throw boxes willy nilly out of a truck and on to the warehouse floor. But it’s quicker than stacking them.
Here it is. A moment you will not likely see again for a very long time. Betsy sitting on chaos. Proud and unashamed.
Rarely, but on occasion, the Chicks have to dispose of a few things. With donations, you have to take the bad with the good. There’s no problem giving the good away. Sometimes, we can even give away the bad. But once in awhile, we get stuck with the bad.
Such was the case with a couple of desks we got. They were…well…ratty. Not in that they were rat-infested. They were just way past their prime, which was sometime around 1973.
So we called the Davidson County Sheriff’s Department to bring out their awesome Jaws of Death truck (my term, not theirs).
How can you not take photos of something like this? Here we go.
You ever get to do this as part of your job? I didn’t think so.
Oh, joy. So I arrive at CRC World Headquarters this morning to find this. An old, giant, heavy TV plopped down by our front door. Gee, thanks! NOT.
So, without sounding too acerbic, here are the rules for donating items to the Community Resource Center:
Ask first. We have telephones and we have e-mail. Please use them to ask if your donation is useful and can be distributed to other nonprofits. We are not the city dump.
Bulk surplus inventory and basic necessities we purchase for our partners are our bread and butter. If you have surplus inventory of almost any type we will take it and find a use for it. If you have surplus inventory that involves personal care products, laundry detergent, or new underwear or socks, we will name our conference room after you.
Please remember that if you dump stuff on our doorstep, we will have to pay to get rid of it and that upsets the Chicks. We are “no drama” kind of girls so you really don’t want to upset us.
To all the generous donors who provide useful items to CRC that enrich the lives of the tens of thousands of people in need we serve through our nonprofit partners, THANK YOU. To the person who dumped the TV on our doorstep when we weren’t looking…read the rules. Follow the rules.
I am doing a slow burn today, looking at six pallets of junk that ended up in the warehouse because of my stupidity. A compassionate person I shall not name held a donation drive for tornado victims in Alabama, but she couldn’t find a truck to transport the donations. She tells me the donations are all useful items such as paper towels, cleaning supplies, hygiene products – stuff people actually need after a disaster. I say I will take them and distribute them to our nonprofits.
I am stupid. The “donations” are junk. What are people thinking? You have just lost your house and all your possessions in a natural disaster of epic proportions and what you certainly do not need are the following:
A greasy scratched electric skillet. Yes, that will be so appetizing to cook with. If you even have electricity, which you do not because you have
just lost your friggin’ house and they don’t allow cooking in nasty skillets in the Motel 6 where you are staying while you ponder how to put your life back together. But someone thought this would be useful. No, that’s not true. Someone thought, “Oh, goodie, I can get rid of that nasty thing and feel good about myself at the same time.” No, you cannot feel good about yourself. Not at all.
Or how about this one: a frosting spreader. Yes, indeed. The first priority on the list of recovery after a disaster is to bake a cake in the oven you just lost to the twister without the electricity you don’t have anyway. Are you kidding me? Would the generous donor really feel good standing before a tornado survivor and saying, “Here you go. Have a nice day.” These pallets are almost completely loaded with this kind of crap. Sorry, junk.
I didn’t even shoot photos of the bags upon bags of ratty old clothes, dirty stuffed animals, broken suitcases and the odd lampshade or frayed decorative pillow. But I couldn’t pass up this one: two weightlifting belts. “Hey, honey,” I can just imagine some burly guy saying to his wife. “I know there are a lot of displaced weightlifters in the state of Alabama right now and even though I love my old weightlifting belts, I’m going to make a sacrifice and donate them.”
Before our own flooding disaster in 2010, I don’t think I understood the incredible insult people add to injury when they clean out their attic and plop their discards down on your doorstep for you to throw in the trash, which is what the donors should have done in the first place.
So to end this on a positive note, the next time there is a disaster of any type please purchase and donate the following:
1. Personal hygiene products
2. Paper products
3. New, NEW, clothing, particularly underwear and socks.
4. Cleaning supplies and tools such as mops and brooms.
5. Money. If you really want to help, donate money.
Is it a real job when part of your duties are digging through boxes of fantastic donations and putting on funny hats? I think so. Most definitely.
We are at the airport warehouse on Saturday with some fantastic volunteers who are donating their time to sort donations for our Christmas Giveaway. You just never know what you’re going to find in those boxes and we have a lot of them to go through. Some of the donations are fitting for Christmas: children’s books, pretty scarves, aromatic candles. And then there is the random witch’s hat that Betsy pulls out of a box and which Ben Prom, a volunteer, makes fun of. It is fun.
It’s really a treasure hunt. You never know what you will find. Lovely watches. Yes! Pretty china. That’s good. A cucumber man that sits on your kitchen counter. What was someone thinking when they made that? It’s all good. Someone will want that cucumber man. Someone who doesn’t have a lot of joy in their life and who will appreciate the lunacy of a cucumber man and just smile.
But back to the hats. We do seem to be a hat crazy bunch.
Is it Easter yet? CRC board treasurer Martin Akin is not too proud to put on a bunny hat. Please note the ears. They flop up and down. He’s O.K. with that. The bunny hats will get saved for a spring giveaway or they might make an appearance at our annual fundraiser, Oyster Easter.
Next week, our nonprofit partners will come to the warehouse for gifts for their clients. Often, the only gifts some of their clients get will be from the Community Resource Center. A nice new Christmas sweater for a disadvantaged senior. A new board game for an at-risk child. We will give away thousands of gifts next week. I am fairly certain hats will be involved. Kim was modeling an elf hat on Saturday. I am fairly certain I will see that again.
Just a little bit of a rant here. We have practically had “no used clothes” tatooed on our foreheads for the last month. It’s on the website. It’s in every listing about CRC. And yet people persist in cleaning out their attics and trying to dump their refuse on our doorstep in the name of charity.
Yesterday, a woman came to the warehouse with bags and bags of used clothing. When I told her we didn’t accept that, her facial expression immediately turned to utter disdain. “Beggars can’t be choosers,” she snarled. She actually snarled. She walked out before I could respond.
Beggars can’t be choosers. That is how she viewed the Community Resource Center and the victims of flooding it is serving right now.
So listen, lady, whoever you are. The people who lost their homes to the flood are not beggars. They are your neighbors and the people you go to church with and the person you did pilates with at the Y only she’s not there right now because she’s living with her relatives while she tries to fix her life. The people who lost their homes are rich and poor and in between. These victims of the raging waters need a hand up, not a hand out.
And right now, they need nice. They don’t need their situation thrown in their faces along with the stained t-shirt that I’m sure was lurking in your garbage bags of used clothing. And, for your information, we have nice. We have brand new shirts and pants and socks. We’re working on more underwear. We’re sending it out by the box load.
So for those of you out there who are genuinely trying to help, stop already with the used clothing. I hate to be picky, but I am going to be on behalf of the people we’re serving right now. Call me names. Go ahead. I can take it.
* Those who are determined to support flood relief with a used clothing donation should give to the Goodwill on Charlotte Pike. That location was flooded along with the Pep Boys in the same complex – maybe you saw the video. From what I understand Goodwill is also filtering those who will help Nashville rebuild through their career center. We ♥ the Goodwill and Salvation Army for providing jobs and valuable services to our community year round!
The phones are ringing off the hook today, but this call was different.
“We’re on our way!” an emphatic voice said with great authority over the phone. Well, great, I said. What time are you going to get here? “We’ll be there by about six o’clock,” said the voice. It was three in the afternoon, normally closing time for the emergency supply center run by the Community Resource Center. Where are you coming from? “We’re coming from Dayton, Ohio!” Well, alrighty then. We’ll stay open.
That good old Southern phrase “took a notion” comes to mind. Sarah Smith, the voice over the phone, and the extended Smith family of Dayton, Ohio, just took a notion to collect emergency supplies for the flood victims of Tennessee. They created a website, Nashville TN Flood Relief, and asked for donations. They arrived in the largest U-Haul there is, one they obviously paid for out of their own pockets.
They didn’t create a strategic plan and the action steps to implement it. They didn’t assess who their stakeholders were. They just took a notion to provide help, gathered up supplies, got in the truck and drove.
It turns out the extended Smith family and Music City have something in common besides compassion. They love bluegrass. They are planning a bluegrass concert to raise money for the flood victims, many of whom are no doubt musicians. If you think Music City stops at the borders of Davidson County you are dead wrong.
In the last few days, some of us have wondered why the national media hasn’t put Middle Tennessee’s epic flood at the top of their breaking news list. Some people have suggested it’s because there’s no “bad” news. The flood is tragic news, of course. But we haven’t had looting. We haven’t had a breakdown in government response. Emergency crews, police, firefighters and volunteers have been everywhere. Everyone, everyone, has responded quickly and appropriately. The Southern way.
Today, the warehouse is filling up fast, thanks to people like the Smith family who just took a notion to help. The Community Resource Center loves the notion of an empty warehouse, of course. That means that emergency supplies are getting to the people who need them the most, our most fragile citizens.
“We’re on our way.” Yes, indeed, we are. As a city and region we are on the road to recovery. Help has arrived, some of it from the most unexpected places.
We are flooded. But good. There is so much water that our dumpster began bobbing and merrily made its way across the parking lot.
All day Sunday I watched and waited and worried. I learned to read Corp of Engineer flood levels for the Cumberland. I prayed that the river would stay away from CRC. It did not.
A few years ago, Scott Cowen, the president of Tulane University, was asked how he faced the enormity of repairing a university that had been entirely under water in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He said he wasn’t sure where to start until his wife reminded him of how he fixes everything. “Make a list,” she said.
So I am making a list. Betsy loves lists. After the initial shock of finding out the building was taking on a tad bit of water, she immediately got enthusiastic when I mentioned the list. In fact, we are meeting at Star Bagel in the morning. She is bringing her daughter, Kirstin, for moral support. Kirstin always finds the joy in any situation.
So the first thing on the list, after I held my own private invitation-only-to-one pity party, was to figure out the essentials. Get the power and gas cut off to the building. Transfer the phone service to my cell phone. Get Brett Scott, a board member who is president of Kraft Technology Group, to extract data off the back-up tape I had in my car. Send blast e-mails to our partners, to our funders and to our board.
Next on the list is to find a remediation company (those are the folks that clean out flooded spaces) and get someone to pay attention to our relatively small nonprofit, which is now in competition with Opryland and the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, also flooded. I am finding out this is not easy. I have heard a lot of really bad pre-recorded music while hanging on the phone today.
The flood waters will recede tomorrow. I am slightly nervous about this. I imagine opening the front door to the building and having a tidal wave gush out populated by flailing fish. Then we will begin to clean up. The warehouse will be easy. It’s all concrete. We’ll just pressure wash it, let it dry and be done with it. The offices will take longer, but if we have the warehouse in order we are back in the “giving stuff away” business. And if we start getting calls from potential donors wanting to give us mass amounts of stuff, I am now educated enough to ask: “Were those items once soaking in river or stream water?” Denied.
I’m not much on possessions, but there are a few items I fear we cannot salvage. I am more than concerned that our pink flamingos in the parking lot have washed away. Betsy and I will probably not want to use the lawn chairs we sit in for strategic planning sessions at the open dock door. And Betsy’s beloved Coke table and stool will probably end up in the dumpster.
But we are looking on the bright side. The carpet needed to be replaced anyway. We’ll be able to reconfigure the office space to be more user friendly. We will add the day spa with the pedicure station. Heck, we may even paint the walls a lovely soft lavender.
We are, after all, two chicks in a warehouse. We are two Type A chicks. We laugh in the face of oil-laden, chemically overloaded water. We won’t touch it, of course. But we laugh at it nonetheless.
Someone has manufactured a large, large number of extremely large green pants. We were touring one of our partner agencies last week when our guide opened the door to an office filled with boxes of the aforementioned pants. They had been donated. There were not enough large green-pant-loving people for the agency to give them to.
“We’ll take them,” Betsy said immediately. Here she is, demonstrating the enormity of the donation.
We are thinking that anyone starting a small para-military organization would love these pants. Or perhaps the security guards at the airport are in need of a change of clothes.
Seriously, we will have no trouble giving these away. While they are green, exceptionally green, they’re also brand new. So if you happen to see a sizable group of people of stature around town some day, all in green garb, you will know they were dressed by CRC.