Program partners corporate in-kind giving with nonprofits serving those most in need

As part of the quality team for a consumer products company, Wade Brown was responsible for identifying packaging issues that prevented products from reaching store shelves. But disposing of otherwise-usable merchandise bothered him.

After all, his mother, Kathryn Sophia Beasley Hall, had always acted as neighborhood nurse and caregiver, sharing whatever she had with others in her community to meet their needs. And Brown had an idea about how he might be able to share with others the products otherwise bound for disposal.

Fortunately, the company for which he worked, Unilever (now Sun Products) saw the value of his vision and gave him both products and warehouse space to house them as he developed a network among nonprofit groups that could use the items to aid those in need. “Serving the needs of those who serve the needs of others,” became Brown’s motto.

That network has now been formalized, with steps taken to expand it significantly, through the creation of Diakon Kathryn’s Kloset. Brown joined Diakon the beginning of 2009 following his retirement from Unilever. In the transition, Diakon funding has been put in place, a large warehouse leased and a warehouse manager hired so that Brown, now executive director of Diakon Kathryn’s Kloset, can focus on continuing to build the network of corporate donors and organizations that can receive goods through the program.

Results of that effort include recognition by the national Head Start program of Diakon Kathryn’s Kloset as the primary recipient of donated goods to be disseminated to 2,800 Head Start programs across the country and designation as contact point by Sun Product Corporation’s product donations.

“These are important relationships for us because they expand the scope of the program,” Brown said. “That type of expansion, including corporate donors of product, regional non-profits, and funding sources, is critical to our success.”
Now based at 1101 Desoto Road in Baltimore, Diakon Kathryn’s Kloset coordinates the distribution of product donations from corporations to nonprofit organizations, free of charge. By establishing and maintaining direct connections between corporate donors and a network of partner nonprofit organizations, the program collects, stores and distributes new and unused products to the nonprofits, which in turn distribute the goods, without charge, to people in need in their communities. Use of the program’s warehouse-based operations center allows a far greater capacity of donated products to flow to those in need.

“It’s a win-win situation for everyone,” Brown said. “Products reach those who need them, instead of being destroyed. Corporations receive a tax advantage through their donations, but also are better stewards and gain the community-relationship benefits of their partnership with so many organizations serving people in need.”

Among typical items, the program accepts dry goods, non-perishable and some perishable foods, toiletries, cleaning supplies, school supplies, office equipment, furniture, and more. Most any type of item is needed by some program somewhere, Brown said.

In its previous part-time configuration, the program served hundreds of thousands of persons. “And we expect that number to grow substantially as we continue to build our network,” Brown said.

Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries and its predecessor organizations have served Baltimore and vicinity since 1916. Recently, its efforts have included the multi-million-dollar renovation of an empty building at North Avenue and Broadway into Diakon Place, which includes the Diakon KidzStuff child-care center.

Providing senior living accommodations, health care, and a range of family and children’s programs in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware, Diakon serves people without regard to religious affiliation. Dating to 1868, the non-profit organization each day touches the lives of thousands of persons through programs ranging from adoption and foster care and services for at-risk youths to family counseling and continuum-of-care senior living communities.

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