By: Maureen Atwell, Executive Director on Feb 12, 2021
More than anything else, financial gifts from our community allow us to do the good work we do, but in-kind gifts of items also play a critical role in our mission. Sometimes, though, making sure we get the “right” gifts can be surprisingly tricky.
There are some items we always need (cleaning supplies, toilet paper, and others), and other items we never need (used mattresses, expired food, and others), but there’s a whole other category of items I think of as “unglamorous”: things that are either awkward, unpopular, or too abundant for our modest storage spaces. Here are the ones that give us the most trouble:
1. Underwear. This one falls in the “awkward” category. People (thankfully!) don’t donate used underwear, but they also don’t really donate new underwear, and it’s a hard item to find in bulk. Having clean underwear is a basic human need (5 Reasons Why Everyone Needs Clean Underwear), and is integral to our mission of restoring hope and dignity to our guests. I never thought I’d have a job where I solicit people for underwear, but now I find myself in the awkward position of asking for it frequently and with great enthusiasm.
2. Diapers. As it turns out, it is possible to have too many diapers. We have a lot of babies in our Juno House shelter, but in the past year or so, we’ve been so overwhelmed by diaper donations that our storage spaces are overflowing. Even though we put the word out that we have too many to store, large gifts of diapers still sometimes show up unannounced on our shelter porch. We're managing the surplus by partnering with other nonprofits, including the Milwaukee Diaper Mission, to find families who need them.
3. Kleenex. This one is a real mystery. For reasons we don’t understand, we often get truckloads of tissue donated to us, and it’s another item that people sometimes leave on our shelter porches before we can stop them. Although a certain amount of Kleenex is useful to us, we have too much to store, so we’re found some local nonprofit partners who have been very grateful to share our supply.
4. Wash cloths. Our generous community has given us a beautiful collection of towels for our guests, but somehow wash cloths are always in short supply. Families in our shelter with babies and young children use them all the time, and wash cloths are an important need for our guests who sometimes spend time living in places not meant for human habitation.
5. Cement. Is anything more unglamorous than cement? You might be surprised to learn that nobody is knocking down our doors to donate cement, but with three large shelters full of play areas, parking lots, walkways, patios, and stairs, we’re always in need of cement, and especially someone who knows how to pour it. Some asphalt (and an asphalt expert) would also be handy.
6. Coffee. Always needed, never donated. We don’t have a fancy pod machine, just good old fashioned coffee makers that are lonely for good old fashioned coffee. Our guests can't afford a daily Starbucks run like so many of us enjoy, and getting a donation of coffee, filters, creamer, and small bags of sugar would feel like winning the lottery.
We love it when people call us to ask how they can help. If you have a question about donating a certain item, or to learn more about how you can help, contact Katlin Hahn at email@example.com or (262) 522-1418.
Please consider donating a one-time or monthly gift. Your kindness changes lives.