Here in Idaho, the leaves have fallen and the sun rises on a glistening blanket of frost each morning. People have broken out their winter coats and kids walk to school cocooned in scarves and knit caps. While the weather is chilly, our hearts are especially warm this November, thanks to a series of serendipitous events and a handful of unlikely collaborators that allowed LONE CONE to help its neighbors in a huge way this year.
This spring, LONE CONE contacted United Way of Treasure Valley about donating nearly 3,000 pairs of rain boots. United Way happily accepted our offer, but once the boots started arriving, they encountered an unexpected problem. The thing is, 3000 boots take up A LOT of space!
It didn’t take long before the local United Way office was overwhelmed by boxes and boxes of rain boots. Their team worked hard to sort them by size so they could be transferred to distribution centers throughout the region. Ed Schultz, Relationship Manager for United Way of Treasure Valley, said, “Our United Way team sorted about half of the received boots. But we have “regular” jobs that needed attention.”
United Way reached out to its board of directors, seeking temporary storage until their staff had the bandwidth to finish the sorting. Another area organization, Valley Regional Transit (VRT), answered the call and offered up warehouse space for 100 boxes of sorted boots and 50 boxes of boots that still needed to be organized.
Just as soon as United Way freed up their office space, another 80 boxes of boots arrived. This time, a company with no prior relationship with United Way came to the rescue. That company was Cummins, a diesel engine manufacturer and service shop. A week or two later, Cummins picked up the remaining boots and brought them to their location where shop mechanics, managers, sales staff, and parts staff all pitched in to get them sorted and re-boxed. When the Cummins team heard that the boxes needed to make their way to VRT’s storage facility, they laughed. VRT was one of their clients and they said they could deliver them when making a routine service call just a few days later.
Now with 50 boxes left to sort, Ed Schultz received a call from the HR Manager at one of the area’s Target locations, who was looking for a meaningful volunteer project. Ed brought up the rain boot project and they jumped at the idea. A few weeks later, Target employees showed up at VRT’s warehouse and finished the rest of the sorting.
A couple of months, hundreds of boxes, and four companies that previously had been mostly unknown to one another later, United Way now has about 3000 pairs of LONE CONE boots ready to be distributed across the Treasure Valley this winter. Ed Schultz summarizes the operation like this:
“Every time I am sharing this wonderful story of multiple collaborations, I make one thing clear—this is not about boots. That might be shocking to you, but this is really about kids being successful in school, and in life. This coming fall and winter, kids could be going to school in the rain and snow wearing flip flops or shoes with the soles worn out and holes in them. These kids would then show up for school with cold, wet feet. How can you pay attention in class with cold, wet feet?!? But through your generous gift of boots, students will be walking to school with waterproof boots, giving them toasty warm and dry feet so that when they get to school they can actually focus on what they are supposed to be learning. We want kids to be successful, and that’s what this story is really all about.”
As LONE CONE looks ahead to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and then onto the new year, we are grateful to be part of a community of giving. Our donation experience with United Way of Treasure Valley has been an important reminder that one act of kindness often begets another and that generosity can create unexpected connections.