In response to my first monthly donation drive, several local friends did some DeCluttering For Good to benefit Cradles to Crayons. Pam T donated all kinds of pre-teen purses and bags along with some great pre-teen girls clothing. Girls of all ages always love a new bag! Eileen K’s donations included a like-new classic red tricycle that I can certainly envision bringing great joy to a pre-schooler who might not otherwise experience this very innocent and classic rite of passage. Carol L donated books and some beautiful never-used baby boy outfits that some new mother will lovingly dress her baby in. Debbie F cleaned out her attics of several pieces of baby equipment, a category of items in great demand at Cradles to Crayons. When all was said and done, the contributors had some cleaned out corners and happy smiles to show for their time spent.
For all the details of my tour of Cradles to Crayons and their wonderful set-up, read on…
Last Tuesday, I filled the car with the donations (and I mean filled it!) and drove to the Cradles to Crayons warehouse in Quincy. I easily found it thanks to great directions (including landmarks) from their website and great signage… Several volunteers helped me empty the car, appreciative of the full load of needed items. Outreach Manager Josh Nespoli gave me the grand tour, first passing photograph-covered walls of happy volunteers up a brightly painted set of stairs to a well-organized warehouse setting. Josh explained the simple, and simply brilliant, donation process from the first sort, through the “shopping” area where volunteers “fill” orders to meet specific requests from organizations representing children in need, to the end result, a carefully packaged bag of goods chosen for a particular child, including games and books along with clothing, coats, shoes and boots, depending on the specific requests made. Here’s a description from a case example written from the service providers point of view:
Elizabeth is a two-year-old girl with Down syndrome. She is one of seven children living in Mattapan with her family. Both parents work, yet the family still struggles financially. Buying food and paying other bills take priority over clothes and toys. This is where Cradles to Crayons is extremely helpful. We use this service to meet the needs of the children to help them grow and develop appropriately. The children are ecstatic to receive these items.
As an early intervention worker, I can say that I value Cradles to Crayons a great deal. Our job is to help children learn through play, while supporting parents. We are often in homes without any toys at all and are forced to interact using creative methods with available items. One can only be so creative with a paper towel roll and plastic cups when a family has no toys. Toys help children learn about their own abilities, and with encouragement, these play skills will help them learn about the world around them.
Cradles to Crayons makes my job easier and makes my job more rewarding. I recognize the thought and effort it must take to make this service possible. I only wish the volunteers had he opportunity to see the look on these children’s faces when they receive these items. It is a wonderful gift to these families and a beautiful message that they are worth the effort it takes to make this all possible.
To put it mildly, I was very impressed and truly inspired by the good work being done at Cradles to Crayons on behalf of so many in need. The organization is clearly making a positive impact already and has a bright future ahead, indeed making life a little brighter for all they touch, volunteers and recipients alike. Stated on their website and even on the back of Josh’ business card (great idea!), here are the Cradles to Crayons Mission and Model statements:
Our Mission: To provide, free of charge, low-income and homeless children from birth to pre-teen the basic essentials they need to be safe, warm, ready to learn, and valued. We also set a foundation for lasting change through the meaningful, tangible volunteer opportunities we provide to thousands of youth and adults each year.Our Model: We’re the glue between communities that have and communities that need. We make it simple for children, families, corporations to give their time, treasures and talent to benefit other children in their community. By partnering with social service agencies for distribution, we have a direct channel to serve tens of thousands of children in need each year.
The basic system they have in place is simply described in the words of Founder Lyn Margherio in the following excerpt from the Business Innovation Factory:
Mobilizing Community Goodwill
A similar innovative use of sound business principles has helped make Cradles to Crayons a success. In every community, Margherio notes, schools, religious institutions and other organizations mount drives to collect items such as clothing, baby strollers or books for the needy, “but social service agencies that receive them may or may not be able to do anything with them,” and the items may never reach those in need.
By sorting and storing items that groups collect – and matching them with local social service agencies’ needs – Cradles to Crayons “is able to harness the community’s existing goodwill to serve the maximum number of children in a much more rational and logical way,” Margherio says.
The efficient system Cradles to Crayons employs makes the best use of the time of donors and recipient organizations alike and focuses their efforts on getting the donated items into the hands of those in need. This organization really does take sound business and distribution systems and put those concepts to use to serve their mission-driven purpose. To read more about Cradles to Crayons and its founder, here’s a link to a great article from the Boston Herald. Of course, a visit to the Cradles to Crayons website is surely time well spent.
Thanks to those who contributed this time around. Didn’t get a chance to participate? That’s okay. Remember, there will be a DeClutter For Good event the third weekend of each month. We will definitely be DeCluttering For Good for Cradles to Crayons, and the 400 service organizations which they, in turn, serve.