The Health Care Collaborative of Rural Missouri's Warehouse. . .
HCC’s Warehouse has provided more than $1,600,000 of In-Kind Donations to the Region's Underserved during 2017! Including 2016’s figures, the total community impact value of the Warehouse in this region is more than $2,250,000!
The heart to serve and a will to make a difference can ignite a ripple effect that impacts the lives of many. This is what’s happening in Lexington and surrounding communities. It all started in 2014. Bob Vickers happened to meet a few HCC employees at a Johnson County Project Community Connect event in West Central Missouri. After that initial connection, HCC started attending their planning meetings Vickers’ led and in early 2015 toured a warehouse that Vickers started in Warrensburg, Missouri.
The ripple effect. “Amanda and I looked at each other and said, ‘We want one of these,’” said Suzanne Smith, HCC’s director of network development. (Amanda Arnold serves as HCC’s Director of Nursing). Smith and Arnold took the idea back to HCC’s CEO Toniann Richard and Vice President of Operations Cathy Wallace. They toured the warehouse facility in Warrensburg and understood the impact one would have in Lafayette County. Suffice it to say, Vickers helped instigate the ripple effect as he has in more than 26 other communities. His heart to serve spans 35 years of empowering Agencies and serving others and today he brings his passion to HCC still helping communities conduct Project Connects and start Warehouse. His network of contacts throughout the country has also played a significant role in helping this community meet the needs of the underserved. “He has taught me to never say ‘no’ to a donation and by doing so, we have already established many new donor relationships in our area,” Smith said. (He has written a "tool-lit" on how to start a Warehouse in your community and glean free products and another Tool-kit on how to conduct a Project Connect event even in small communities!)
Now, Lexington has its’ own warehouse in a 7,500 square-foot building in a strip center right off of Highway 13 adjacent to the Lexington 4-Life Center. The cement floor warehouse was at one time, in its prime, a video store. It has 15-foot ceilings, supporting poles and a loading dock. There is a front double-door with four steps to the door platform on one end and an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant ramp at the other end. The back door has a landing and loading dock leading into the rear double-door entrance for unloading pallets. Smith said the facility remained vacant for the 8 years before they approached the property owner about leasing the building. “We promised to show a significant return of in-kind products that we could put in the hands of people--throughout the county and surrounding areas--that needed them most,” Smith said. HCC’s partnerships with others is just one tool it uses to tap into the material needs of the underserved.
Meeting the need. “In 2016 and 2017, we have been able to meet the needs of families and individuals who are in need, by gathering and distributing more than $2,250,000 worth of in-kind donations,” Smith said. “This includes furniture, mattresses, laundry detergent, toothpaste, tooth brushes, shampoo, coats, blankets, other household and personal items and many other products. The need is huge in this area! We focus primarily on items that cannot be purchased with Food Stamps in order to help people who are really struggling—young families, single parents, seniors, people with disabilities and many others in every community.” Because we want to build the infrastructure and capacity of a community, we choose to not serve individuals but rather, we serve the many churches, schools and social service Agencies. We serve the servants who know and serve those in need.
Smith emphasized that 67% of the food in landfills in the U.S. is edible. Additionally, 62% of all non-food and non-trash items found in landfills are still usable. “We try to intervene with a variety of sources before items are discarded into landfills. These things can be recirculated back into the community where unmet needs continue to rise. This is a vital part of HCC Network’s continuum of care model. We holistically look at a person’s needs–-physical, emotional, socioeconomic--and try to fill the gap.”
Retail quality control rejections and merchandise with slight defects are among the resources that HCC leverages to fill these gaps and glean in-kind donations for the warehouse. This includes merchandise from various manufacturing companies in the region (laundry detergent, paper goods, candle makers, etc.) to consignment stores, soda distributors, shoe stores, pastry shops, Starbuck’s, Pizza Hut, buffets, convenience stores, caterers and food suppliers, dog food companies, lumber yards, insurance companies, colleges and universities, hotels, and much more.
“There are always rejects, seconds, culls, overruns, returns, last year’s models, “penny-outs,” discontinued products, returns and products that don’t meet quality control for some reason or another,” Smith said. “We can never guarantee what we have in the warehouse but if there is a need for something that we don’t have, many times we can leverage items that we do have to find what we need.” And we can always give a tax-deductible receipt to ANY donation of an in-kind product or cash contribution to support the work. As for how to tap into the warehouse, any agency, school or church that is a member of the HCC Network has access to the warehouse and there are no eligibility requirements for those who may be in need of warehouse items. HCC works through its agency-member network which has direct access to individuals and families with unmet needs. Through the nonprofit’s Connector program, people who receive warehouse goods also have an opportunity to receive additional support for any other unmet needs.
A call for cooperation and collaboration: “Although we are extremely proud of the work that has been done in the short amount of time that we’ve had the warehouse, the need is so great,” Smith said. “We are also so blessed to be a part of a community where there are many people willing to help.” There are so many people who need mattresses, dressers, tables and chairs, blankets, coats and so much more but when we work together, we can find about anything needed by anyone. Keep in mind, the HCC Warehouse doesn’t serve individuals. Rather, we serve Agencies, churches, school counselors, social service agencies and other servants who are serving to meet needs. This assures that people are developing relationships—NOT just getting “stuff.” We need help to do all this—WE NEED YOUR HELP to do all this!
HCC is asking Lafayette County and surrounding communities for help. “Right now we have organizations on a waiting list for beds and dressers for neighbors. We have given out more than 1,075 mattresses in the past 12 months, we have distributed more than 1,600 new and gently used blankets and 750 new and gently used coats in the past 60 days including Project Connect in Higginsville and could use at least 250 to 300 more of each. We have also empowered the delivery of thousands of bottles of shampoo, dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent and more. As soon as we have a bed or blanket donated, it is usually already spoken for and is back out the door to the organization that requested it for their client in need. We have worked with many of our school districts to find beds that a family needs in order to reunite children with their parents,” she said. Requests for formula and diapers is also another huge need they try to fill.
In addition, HCC is looking for a business that has a box truck in good condition that they would like to donate in exchange for a tax deduction. “That is one of the largest barriers that we have at this time,” she said. This simple donation would lead to quadrupling our capacity during the next 12 months—quite a “Return on Investment!” Think about that for a minute: A $10,000 box truck donation will bring more than $6,000,000 of community impact! Who wants that reward?!
Think you are too small to make a difference? Think again. Recently, the Concordia Elementary School’s Student Council held a competitive drive in the entire school and gathered 169 new and gently used blankets, 6 cases of shampoo and conditioner, 580 rolls of toilet paper and 225 rolls of paper towels (all precious items that cannot be purchased with Food Stamps). An amazing community impact value from young, impressionable hearts that want to help people! Another group donated 37 walkers, 5 wheel chairs, 16 commodes and a dozen stool risers for people with disabilities.
When it comes to unmet needs, cash is still king. Smith said they can typically take a dollar donation and scale it to $25 to $30 worth of products. They also use cash donations to purchase paper products such as toilet paper and paper towels from Harvesters to donate at Project Connect events and through the “care packages” they put together for Agencies to give those in in need. Again, because we focus on items not able to be purchased with Food Stamps, we can empower greater needs to be met through Agencies, churches and schools. For a list of “Items Not Able to be Purchased with Food Stamps,” please e-mail Bob Vickers at bob@ArtfulAskers.com OR Suzanne Smith at Suzanne@hccnetwork.org.
Finally, volunteers are needed to conduct drives at their church, school or business, sort products and materials as well as organize the warehouse. Generally, we utilize Volunteers on Wednesday mornings but can schedule groups for evenings or other times. For information, to donate or find out how to volunteer, call Suzanne Smith at (660) 259-2440. To learn about HCC and its’ Live Well Community Health Centers in Buckner, Carrollton, Concordia and Waverly, visit www.HCCNetwork.org. OR call Bob Vickers.
How you can help: We ALWAYS need bed and blanket donations, paper goods, mattresses of all sizes, dressers and any useable furniture, laundry detergent, diapers and wipes, boys and young men's clothes and shoes, cleaning products and many of the items than cannot be purchased with Food Stamps. For a list of most needed items month to month, please call Bob Vickers on his cell phone (660) 580-0007. Other ideas of how you can help:
--Donate your furniture, mattresses, new or gently used blankets, clothing or other household item.
--Purchase/donate paper goods, dishwashing liquid, deodorant, laundry detergent, toothbrushes/paste, silverware, diapers and wipes or other items—we can often purchase these items for pennies on the dollar so contact us first!
--Tell your employer or friends’ employers about us—ask them to donate their returns, culls, mattresses, etc.
--Have your church, school or business gather donated items! Then, call us for promotional help, attention and promotion.
We are currently developing a manual helping ANY group with a heart for a Warehouse for their community to start one. We even coach you on how to get the FREE stuff. For a DRAFT copy of the manual in development, please e-mail Bob Vickers. We are happy to provide the written documents electronically, the sample letters, tracking sheets and many other things to assure your success! There is NO NEED to reinvent the wheel!
Bob Vickers, Artful Askers
(660) 580-0007, Bob’s personal cell phone, brief calls/texts
Suzanne Smith, Health Care Collaborative of Rural MO
825 S. Business 13 Hwy, Lexington, MO 64067