Gift in Kind: Thank you!!!!!!


“House of Friendship allows people to share what they can’t use anymore, and we’re quickly able to find someone in need.”

Tony styling a gift in kind donation that the staff enjoyed having a photo shoot with that day!

This quote is from an interview I had with Tony Bender, our Community Services Director. I approached Tony for the interview after Matt suggested writing a blog on the gift in kind donations our program receives. Personally I believe Tony was the perfect person to turn to for answers since he’s worked with House of Friendship for over 30 years and (conservatively) estimates that he spends five to six hours on gift in kind projects each week! He certainly had a lot of information and stories to share. So I hope this blog can pass on his experiences and knowledge.

Gift in kind donations are important to our program since many patrons are looking for help with more than just food. Patrons request help with pots and pans, after leaving an abusive relationship or being evicted. Some patrons want help with bedding and blankets, after immigrating to the area. Various patrons come hoping to find books to read to their children, or to assist themselves in learning English. Other patrons turn to our program searching for an outfit to wear at an interview. The reasons and needs are endless, which is why it’s easy to see how each donation is important, useful and appreciated by the many patrons we serve, and the programs of House of Friendship.

The donation bin located in our driveway.

Fortunately our organization exists in a very generous community! During the period of October 2008 to September 2009 Tony estimates 2 352 individuals supported House of Friendship with gift in kind donations!  However, this is an approximation as there are many donation sites for House of Friendship, we have no idea how many people stop at our program after hours or throughout the day, and it’s hard to count the steady flow of donations through the Charles Street Men’s Hostel. The hostel is definitely no stranger to accepting donations, as there are staff people on site 24/7. Having this program open at all hours is one reason people may donate to House of Friendship. Hostel staff are able to accept donations at any day and time, which people appreciate as it means that donations aren’t left outside to face various weather conditions.

Lorraine taking a break during her 8 years of volunteering!

Though these donations wouldn’t go far without the help of our volunteers! Some of you may remember Wouda, one of the dedicated volunteers who keep the clothing corner of the lobby nicely folded and full each day.

Carola working hard for 13 years and counting!

However she is also helped by Carola and Lorraine who come in twice a week to sort clothes; fold blankets and towels; shelve books, toys and household items; and much more. Together these ladies have volunteered over 790 hours this year, and over 12 000 hours during their years of volunteering.

However, these ladies do more than just sort clothes and other items – they provide the staff and volunteers with a bit of humour from time-to-time. But before I explain further, let me remind everyone that House of Friendship is grateful for everything we receive; it’s just that sometimes we wonder if people may have neglected to take a second look at some of the items they’re pulling out of storage before adding it to the donation bag. Here are some examples in the pictures below:

Lovely garden flamingos that we use to decorate our garden space.

Other great but somewhat “odd” examples are windows and doors, live gerbils, portables, 11 tons of dry beans, 800 binders, 1 200 hats from Uniroyal Chemical, in Elmira, 5000 small punch glasses, bullets, 40-year-old jarred pickles, and horse laxatives.

Luckily these donations are few and far between the other wonderful and good condition items we regularly receive.

Some of the items our program is typically looking for or receive are: clothing for all sizes and genders; shoes; books; movies; CDs; toys; baby items; bedding supplies and blankets; towels; hygiene products; volunteering time; books; household items such as dishes, pots, plates, Tupperware, frying pans, cutlery, and cups; clean and working appliances such as microwaves, washers, sewing machines, hot plates, kettles, toasters, irons, coffee machines; and furniture such as bed frames, mattresses, dressers. Click here for directions if you’d like to drop off a donation. Please note for any furniture or appliance donations we would appreciate if you could call ahead, since our organization has limited storage space and cannot keep them on site.

I mentioned above some of the more regular gift in kind donations we receive at House of Friendship, but the donation list goes on. Some examples other notable gift in kind donations such are: flowers from Bo-De Greenhouse; repaired bicycles; computers and other technical equipment; Bethany’s Evangelical church for the space to hold our volunteer party and other gatherings; complimentary tickets to special events such as hockey games at the Auditorium, magic shows at the Center in the Square; passes to museums; and suitcases from the New Hamburg Thrift Store.

“House of Friendship is very fortunate to receive the many items that are donated. The community trusts us to make good use of the items they give us.” – Tony Bender, “Report on In Kind Donations to House of Friendship”

Overall the work involved in gift in kind donations can be challenging to balance since our program exists to focus on food first. Though as an organization that works closely with people in low or limited income situations, our staff can often find a home for almost any donation in a quick manner. However when you’re thinking of making a donation, it never hurts to call ahead to see if we’re in need of the item or where it would be best to drop this off. Or stay in touch with our newsletter, where we devote a section to requesting for specific items that our programs or patrons are in need of. Also we are committed to being good stewards of all donations; so if the staff at any of our program don’t believe we have a need for the item, we’ll do our best to refer you to another agency such as Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity Restore, The Working Center’s Worth a Second Look program, Waterloo Generations MCC Thrift Shops, or a local church that may be able to accept, utilize, or pass on a donation that we have no use or storage space for.

“House of Friendship is fortunate to receive so much community support…it’s amazing! We can’t take all the offers we get.” – Tony Bender

Finally I just want to take this chance to offer a sincere and appreciative thank you from all of us here at House of Friendship to all the individuals and groups who collected items to be donated to our organization. This blog is just a small overview of the immense generosity that resides in our community.  Many choose to remain anonymous and not receive a thank you letter, but the staff, volunteers and patrons of our programs all appreciate the kind souls and thoughts that are and have been so supportive of our work over the years.

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