Saturday, April 26, 2014

It beats couponing!

Tshepo ya Bana has long been a beneficiary of groceries, toiletries and baby products from a local grocery store. These items are usually close to their sell by date or slightly damaged, but still useable. Late in 2013, after noticing how full and chaotic the little room where these goods were stored was looking, Darin approached the management with a proposal; we will take everything from your storage room and distribute it to many people in need. This idea made good sense for the grocery store as it would keep their storage room from being infested with critters and bugs that like old food and it also made good sense for us as we would continue to receive donations AND could help the other local organizations involved with Take Action Ministries. Win/win!!

Every Monday Darin heads to the store. He drives around back where a guard lets him into the storage room. He spends some time on-site sorting and cleaning. There are often broken bottles of mayonnaise or ketchup that have seeped into a whole box of other items, or fabric softener that has spilled onto bags of rice. Some weeks are a lot messier than others, so he might be there from 30 minutes to an hour and thirty minutes just getting the stuff out of the storage room and into the car.

When he is about 10 minutes from Tshepo ya Bana, I get a text message telling me to start getting ready. So I head up to the main house, grab a bucket of water, some washcloths and the garbage can. Soon I hear the car coming through the gate and it’s time to head outside and start hauling boxes in. It is fun to see how full the car is when Darin gets home. Sometimes it is filled to the roof and all empty seats are covered, and other times there are only 5 or 6 boxes in the trunk.

Whoever happens to be around starts grabbing boxes and shoving them into the house. These boxes can be filled with canned goods and quite heavy, or filled with boxes of gourmet cookies and quite light (I like those boxes best both for their weight and content). Some weeks there are big items, like laundry baskets without their lids, or mop buckets with a chip in the handle. We've even received several small toaster ovens with two stove plates on top. Donation day is like a box of chocolates…you just never know what you’re gonna get.

Once the car is empty we all start cleaning and sorting. Dirty items get a wipe down, toiletries are put in one pile, seasonings in another, and so on. Some weeks we’ll get a ton of one item, like small packets of tea bags, hot chutney or pot scrubbers. We divide these items up between the different agencies we are working with. Some of those organizations are larger, some deal only with children and some provide food parcels to families, so we keep that in mind as we divvy things up.

Each week one organization benefits from the donations as we rotate through all of them. We box up their items on Monday and then on Tuesday or Wednesday Darin brings them to a central location for pick up. So far this system has been working well, but I admit that there are some Mondays that I really don’t feel like sorting through the donations. There is some exciting progress being made now though which will take a lot of this process out of our hands and create a job for someone in the community. Take Action Ministries hopes to rent some office space in the Hammanskraal area. A local man who is already involved with one of the other organizations will take over the pick-up, clean-up and distribution of the donations. 

It is amazing to see how God provides not only for those of us at Tshepo ya Bana, but for so many others in the community as well. We are so blessed to see how God's provision is changing our community.

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