LSA Blog

Member Helping Member – Clearinghouse of Donated Goods Serves Other Nonprofits in a Big Way

Blog Date: 
Friday, August 14, 2015
by Kim Roque, Director of Member Engagement, LSA

As a new staff member at Lutheran Services in America, my favorite part of the job, hands-down, is to meet our members. I don’t think there's a better way to understand an organization and how it operates than to visit in person. Recently, Alesia Frerichs, VP of Member Engagement, and I took a trip to Baltimore to visit the  Kathryn's Kloset ministry of Diakon. Diakon, a member of LSA, is a social ministry organization that provides a range of senior services and programs and services for children, youth and families. They serve communities in Pennsylvania and Maryland, and annually touch the lives of 50,000-60,000 people.

Kathryn's Kloset
From left to right: Alesia Frerichs, LSA VP of Member Engagement; Wade Brown, Executive Director of Kathryn’s Kloset' and Sheri VanderGast, Diakon SVP of Operations and New Business Development.

Kathryn's Kloset is one of Diakon's innovative programs that collects a broad range of donations – from school supplies to applicances – from corporate partners and shares them with a nonprofit network that in turn provides them for free to people in need in their community.

Wade Brown launched Kathryn's Kloset as a volunteer almost a decade ago. As part of the quality team for a consumer products company, Wade helped identify packaging issues that prevented goods from reaching store shelves; these were perfectly good products with minor packaging issues that were being discarded and destroyed. Wade stepped in and, with the support of his employer, began to build a network of local nonprofits who could distribute the donations to those in need. After retiring in 2009, Wade formally came on as the organization’s Executive Director to grow its network of nonprofit and corporate partners, and it became part of the Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries family.   

Wade founded Kathryn's Kloset to honor and celebrate his mother's life of service. Kathryn Beasley Hall was a neighborhood nurse, caregiver, and church volunteer who felt a calling to give back to her community.  The Gospel of Matthew 25:35-40 calls out the important role that Kathryn’s Kloset plays in serving those in need:

"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me."

It's clear from visiting Diakon Kathryn's Kloset that this is a labor of love for Wade, who with Diakon's support continues to grow the organization: annually, the program touches the lives of approximately 1 million people regionally, nationally, and internationally!  Kathryn's Kloset accepts donations ranging from dry goods, non-perishable food items, computers, toiletries, cleaning and school supplies, office equipment, and much more from corporations that would otherwise dispose of the items or warehouse them themselves. When we visited, we saw some wonderful products that would be perfect for a transitional housing shelter, from mattresses to a freezer and washing machine set, to school supplies and educational materials perfect for afterschool and mentoring programs, to cleaning supplies and computers that would be great for any type of program! As a long-time nonprofit worker and volunteer, I was amazed at the breadth and scope of what was available, and how much money could be saved by taking advantage of the donations Kathryn’s Kloset had to offer.

Kathryn's Kloset is looking to expand its base of nonprofit partners. If you are within driving distance of Baltimore, you can pick up items for free (just make sure to bring a large vehicle!) If you’re a little further away, you can still have the items free of charge; there is a nominal fee for shipping/handling.

If you are a 501c(3) nonprofit organization, you can register online to receive products at http://www.diakon.org/KathrynsKloset/non-profit-partners/obtain-products.aspx . You’ll then receive an e-newsletter alerting you with new product donations, as well as have the ability to review current inventory at the warehouse.

Diakon is doing amazing work to support those in need – and the more members that I meet, the more I am reminded that there are many ways to answer the call to serve. LSA members are working on a broad range of issues with a broad range of solutions, but ultimately we are all working to answer God's call to love and serve our neighbors. 

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