Give ‘N’ Clothe lets everyone make a difference
By Michael Bongiorni
Like so many of you in today’s professional world, I frantically sort, prioritize and respond to hundreds of emails, voice mails, attend meetings and follow up on leads. This never-ending pace often leads to that frequently asked question, posed to a bedroom ceiling during sleepless nights:
“Am I making a difference?”
This question was recently answered for me when I met “Randy” at the San Rafael Goodwill Store. Randy (not his actual name) had a Give ‘N’ Clothe coupon in his hand and was shopping for provisions to make his life a bit more comfortable. The coupon allows its owners to pick up items at our local Goodwill stores free of charge.
Randy moved from Dallas to Marin County more than 30 years ago as a successful sales executive. Then in 2009, Randy’s job dried up.
“I thought I would be out of work for just one or two months,” he recalled. “But months turned into years.”
As his unemployment stretched on, Randy lost his home and began living in the woods near Fairfax.
“Homelessness was not on my life ‘to-do list,’” he admitted. “I didn’t think I’d be adding that to my life résumé.”
Determined to find help, he turned to the Ritter Center.
The Ritter Center is a clean, safe and nurturing environment primarily used by persons without secure housing. The center provides showers, hygiene supplies, laundry facilities, restrooms and storage lockers to stow personal belongings. The center assisted Randy and scheduled him to meet with a caseworker. It also gave him that Give ‘N’ Clothe Goodwill coupon, which Randy was putting to use on the day we met.
The number of people in Marin County who are precariously housed — a term that includes people facing eviction, living in severely overcrowded housing or experiencing housing instability due to economic hardships — has increased 35 percent since 2009 (up to 4,103 from 3,028). Over the last five years, I have had the pleasure to work with people from the Ritter and Novato Human Needs centers, as well as a dedicated Goodwill team that last year accepted donations from 1,078 individuals in one day during the 2011 Give ‘N’ Clothe donation drive.
That’s the kind of compassionate spirit we hope to see in equal or greater measure during this year’s drive, on Saturday, Sept. 22, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. For every household item or item of clothing we receive, Goodwill issues Give ‘N’ Clothe coupons to the Ritter and Novato Human Needs centers to provide to their clients. This allows folks like Randy to obtain needed clothing and living items for free, whether for daily life or an upcoming job interview.
Meeting Randy answered my question about whether I was making a difference through my work. Let his story help you answer that question, too.
Now let me get back to those emails.
What: Give ‘N’ Clothe Household Goods Drive
When: Saturday Sept. 22, 2012, 9 a.m. — 4 p.m.
Where: Donate at Marin County Goodwill donation sites:
• Goodwill Novato (near DMV)
• Vintage Oaks Shopping Center (near Marshall’s)
• Northgate Mall (near Sears)
• Goodwill San Rafael (809 Lincoln Ave., enter from 3rd Street)
• Mill Valley (near Safeway)
How: To volunteer, contact Cris Jones at the Novato Needs Center: (415) 897-4147 ext. 24; or Shaun Marshall at the Ritter Center: (415) 457-8182 ext. 109. You can also organize your own community, school or business donation drive by contacting me at (415) 575-2116
Busy on Sept. 22? Donate your clothes and small household goods at the Bank of Marin branches beginning Monday, Sept. 17 through Friday, Sept. 21.