When disaster strikes, Americans are quick to send water, food and clothing. But as the devastation recedes from the news, the need for donations change.
“In week one, it’s water and clothing. In month eight, it’s building supplies. Mattresses are needed in year two,” said Cindy Hallberlin, president and CEO of Good360. The Alexandria company is in the business of making sure charities and those hurt by disasters or the economy obtain the goods they need at the time they need them.
The goods it distributes often come from companies that would ordinarily dump merchandise no longer needed or able to be sold.
“You’d be appalled at what gets thrown out,” said Hallberlin, of Takoma Park.
“We aggregate $300 million worth of donations” and work with 40,000 U.S.-based charities to put the proper items in the proper hands in 70 countries.
“We are really the eBay of the charity world,” explained Hallberlin, who traces back her desire to help to her parents’ survivor’s guilt. Her father fled Vienna during World War II. As a 14-year-old, he witnessed Kristallnacht before being sent away by a kindertransport. Her mother left Hungary before it was invaded by Germany.
“They felt very lucky to survive. They have a lot of survivor’s guilt that they passed on to us,” said Hallberlin, who came to Good360 after being the chief ethics, diversity and accountability officer with U.S. Foods.
Working with such well-known companies as Bed, Bath & Beyond, Wal-Mart, IBM, The Gap, Home Depot, Liz Claiborne, Sears and Mattel, Good360 keeps a running list of what goods it has obtained and lets the charities pick what they can use. And these items aren’t just for disaster victims. Good360 also provides goods for many Americans who are struggling to get by.
By knowing what a particular charity needs, Good360 is able to avoid wasting donations that were sent by caring individuals. Roughly 60 percent of donated goods end up in landfills, she noted.
Last week, Good360 learned of a donation of 1,000 African American dolls that speak 50 phrases and can be fed and changed. Also, surge protectors and other electronic goods were received.
Good360 accepts what is out there but also targets certain companies when aware of a particular need, say for winter coats, Hallberlin explained.
“We support charities 365 days a year,” she said, adding, “Anybody who is in poverty, their life is a disaster.” Good360 stores donations at its national distribution center in Omaha, Neb. Truckloads of donations are shipped daily, heading directly to a specific charity.
Hallberlin has been with the company for five years and has a lot of pride in her work. Not long ago, her company sent lighting equipment to Buffalo, N.Y. She soon learned that a single mother there who worked two jobs had heard nothing but good news at her son’s parent-teacher conference.
When the mother got home, she asked her son to what he attributed his improvement. Hallberlin was told the boy simply said, “You gave me a lamp in my room, and I can study at night.”
Another story that makes her smile concerns a homeless man who received one of the new shirts that Good360 delivered to a shelter in North Carolina. That was the first time the man had ever unwrapped a brand new shirt.
Extra make-up may not seem a necessity, but when given to women who are barely getting by, it really boosts their self-esteem, she said.
Good360 is creating a disaster recovery portal, a mobile app that will allow non-profits to plug in what they need so that donations can be sent to them more quickly. It is expected to be launched in the fall.
Regardless of how many donations Good360 receives, “there is more need than supply,” Hallberlin said.
The company has been in business 30 years and recently won an $850,000 2014 Verizon Powerful Answers Award.