Joplin Tornado Relief – Irn, Boston University, The University of Central Missouri, and Staples Join Forces to Make a Difference

When we heard about the Joplin tornado on May 22, 2011, our first reaction was the shock that was shared nationwide.  Our second was to ask what IRN could do to help.  We have access to a large quantity and variety of usable furniture and equipment.  How could IRN put our Surplus Program at the service of Joplin relief efforts?

Establishing a Local Connection.  Unless you are working with an organization that’s directly involved in on-site relief, you can’t just fill a truck, label it “Joplin”, and send it.  It will have nowhere to go, and instead of helping it will get in the way.  It will be turned back.  So our first step was to reach out to our network of charitable partners.  Feed the Children told us they were closely involved in the Joplin relief effort, and they identified several urgent needs, including beds and mattresses, bedding, refrigerators and cooking appliances.

Partnering with BU and UCM to Provide Relief Supplies.  We reviewed our project list and saw two coming up which matched the needs identified by Feed the Children.  Boston University was swapping out dormitory fridge-microwave units, and was also replacing several hundred mattresses.

The University of Central Missouri had a project that included a large number of beds and cots with their bedding.  IRN contacted both schools and got their OK to direct these items to Joplin.

Trucking: Staples Steps Up.  We also needed a partner with national logistics capabilities who could provide immediate transportation to Joplin.  Staples stepped up to the plate, agreeing to provide and pay for trucks and trucking with just two days notice.  Staples also assembled a crew of employee volunteers to unload the relief supplies in Joplin and help with their distribution.

Making it Click.  Feed the Children set up contacts with two organizations in Joplin to receive BU’s and UCM’s contributions:  Family Life Community Outreach and Operation Compassion.  On June 1, a crew of BU student volunteers loaded 133 fridge-microwaves and 75 mattresses onto a Staples truck.  On June 2 and 3, UCM filled more Staples trucks with 500 bedspreads and blankets, 75 camp beds, and 50 military cots.  The loads were delivered to Joplin on June 6, and became part of the foundation for families to put their lives back together following the tornado.

IRN started as a cooperative, and that’s still how we work:  combining the strength of many organizations in the interest of all.  The surplus program takes the model a step further, in that the final beneficiaries aren’t IRN or our members or clients:  they are very needy families and communities in very grave situations.  There are a lot of reasons we love what we do.  This is one of the best.

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