March 14, 2019. By Ashley Agnew:
With Spring just around the corner (or at least it seems to be with my begging for its appearance), spring cleaning has begun at the Agnew household. In our home this includes the all-to-familiar task of emptying out the closets and drawers to be rid of the items of clothing that no longer fit our sizes or styles. With children of course this is a quarterly event, with some outfits making it to the donation bin without even a chance for a single wear, with tags still attached as little ones grow before our eyes. Recently I was discussing this seasonal ritual at a networking event, and I was reminded of a wonderful organization called Gifts to Give. I had volunteered there years ago and was encouraged by those at the event to go back and see how far the organization has come in the last several years.
With that nudge in mind, I chose to visit Gifts to Give to donate time as part of our Year Of Giving at Centerpoint. As my colleague had suggested, I was astonished at what the operation has become, moving from a collection site for donated goods to a bona fide philanthropy factory. The organization is completely centered on improving the community and term their efforts as “Tangible Philanthropy and Big Citizenship”. In short, Gifts to Give takes donations and provides goods to impoverished families in the Southcoast area of Massachusetts and Newport County, Rhode Island. In these areas alone, there are over 3,000 children homeless and over 30,000 children live in poverty. Collecting and delivering donations, although the foundation of the operation, is only the start of the value added to the community. The true value is how the community involvement brings the mission full circle.
The ecosystem that is Gifts to Give is powered completely by its volunteers, or as they call them, Superheroes. These Superheroes can be any age, with tasks assigned ranging from sorting clothing, to cleaning toys, to putting together packages to send directly to homes in need. During my time there, I witnessed such diversity among my fellow volunteers. A group from a senior home completing donated puzzles to be sure that all pieces are intact. High schoolers going through the literal tons of clothing to ensure only quality items are kept. Elementary students helping to disinfect donated toys, making sure that each feature worked perfectly. Teachers and college students volunteering in the rooms designated as safe spaces for tutoring. Amidst all of this, groups were working on hydroponic gardens in the warehouse and honeybee hives on the roof, teaching sustainability and resourcefulness. The warehouse also houses a second-hand store, providing a shop where professional wear is sold at affordable prices for those relaunching into the workforce following a hardship. Looking at the building from the outside, one could not imagine the productivity occurring within its brick walls.
Having explored Gifts to Give our family now looks forward to our quarterly cleanings, making it an opportunity to bring our items directly to Gifts to Give and pair the trip with an hour or two of volunteering. They make it so easy with a drop-in policy, allowing volunteers to participate at anytime for any length of time during their hours of operation. To learn more, visit www.GiftsToGive.org.