Businesses partner with United Way to deliver new items to area nonprofits in need
By Bradley Roberts
Ann Daane leans back in a desk chair and crosses her arms—the “LIVE UNITED” logo on the sleeve of her sweatshirt folds around the crease of her elbow. She huddles up next to a white, electric fireplace that lines the inside wall of her office at the Gifts in Kind warehouse on White Street in Atlanta—the building has a massive United Way logo painted on its exterior wall.
Her office has little knick-knacks that she’s accumulated over the 13 years she’s been facilities manager at the United Way of Greater Atlanta’s GIK office—there are metal, sculpted seagulls in each corner of the office and a small, faceless mannequin sits on top of one of the end tables. The location has moved from Forest Park, and they’ve cut back from a staff of around 15 to three since then, but the mission has been the same.
Some businesses give money to United Way, but others choose to give items they have leftover in stock.
“This is their resting place,” Daane says with a smile. “We take new products, generally we don’t take used — Goodwill and Salvation Army have the used niche. We do new products and excess inventory and overstocks of last year’s merchandise samples, display items that businesses give us, for which they get a tax deduction, and we redistribute them to area nonprofits free of charge.”
The GIK office offers up its space and truck to companies that want to donate items. Businesses will often call Daane and tell her what items they have, then the truck will head out for pickup and bring it back to the warehouse.
“Our space and our truck are our biggest assets for businesses and the nonprofits,” Daane said. “Businesses have quantities of things and they want to give that back to the community, but they can’t have nonprofits coming in and picking up two of this or three of that—those [companies] need us to pick up pallets.
“We have the space and capacity to take large quantities and the truck to make it happen.”
There’s an organized chaos to the warehouse space. Down one aisle, you’ll find cleaning supplies and large, plastic tote boxes. Then there are pallets of bathroom tiles, wall clocks, classroom desks and printers, there’s a large supply of hot water heaters packed into a corner and some commercial gym equipment lining the back wall.
There’s a little bit of everything, and some things you wouldn’t expect either. Daane keeps some of the more obscure items on display in the conference room—they sit on rows of stacked boxes against a shiplap display wall.
GIK doesn’t solicit these pickups, and they never know what request is going to come through on a given day, Daane says. She says local nonprofits will contact her if they have a need or know of something that might be available for pickup at the warehouse.
But, she’s also always on the lookout for places to send the items, too.
“I’ve been in nonprofits for 40 years, and I don’t know all of them, but I know a lot of nonprofits,” Daane says. “I know a lot of people in the community, and I’m very lucky to have a lot of United Way colleagues that are tapped into the community.”
The Gifts in Kind team have helped supply items for local summer camps and other nonprofits, she says. The items they have are used in a variety of creative and imaginative ways.
“Our target is that we’ll make it work for the benefit of nonprofits and clients,” Daane said. “That flexibility is built into the job.”
No two days are the same at GIK. There’s no telling what they’ll pick up, but there is one constant. Paul Young, and his son, Rubin, will be the ones to pick it up and deliver.
“It’s interesting because, on the surface, Paul drives the truck, picks up things and moves on, but that is so not his job,” Daane says of Paul who has worked with United Way for a decade. “He’s our face in the community. He’s our relationship manager in ways that nobody would understand if they hadn’t been here.
“He’ll come back sometimes and say, ‘That was a five-hug delivery.’ Our nonprofits agencies just adore him.”
Daane said Rubin is also, “an amazing person, in addition to being extremely capable and competent in doing his job.” She spoke of one instance where Rubin packed his own car to deliver household items to veterans who were connected with United Way’s homelessness division. She said the truck had broken down for the day, but Rubin wouldn’t let these veterans go without for the night.
Daane says GIK does a lot of work with the volunteerism department and United Way’s affinity groups. Gifts in Kind helps fulfill United Way’s need in addition to that of other nonprofit agencies. Through the GIK office, United Way is able to put a physical gift, not just monetary, behind its mission to help those in need in Atlanta. There’s nothing like it, Daane says.
“I have the absolute best job in the world,” Daane says. “I mean, what fun is this that I get to give these things away?”