David Koch and Me, Hanging Out

David Koch, absent solar energy
David Koch, absent solar energy

David Koch is in the news again.  If you do not know about David Koch, you should look him up.  David Koch is very rich, very powerful, and does not like solar energy.  Nor do his friends.  They hate the idea of solar energy.  They spend lots of money to convince people to agree with them, and they are planning to spend a lot more.

I would like to sit with David Koch for 48 hours.  I would like to see if David can survive two days without solar energy.  I bet not ….

David, take your clothes off, please.  No, I don’t want really want to see you naked.  But that Ralph Lauren shirt, David, that cotton Ralph Lauren shirt.  Cotton, David.  That’s a plant.  Plants grow in sunlight.  You have that shirt thanks to solar energy.  Off with it.  Those nice wool trousers, David.  Wool, from sheep, sheep that eat plants, turn them into wool.  Solar, David, solar.  The trousers have to go.  Nice silk boxers, David.  Silk, from little worms, little worms that eat plants, turn them into silk.  The boxers have to come off, too.  Dang those pesky plants.

David, you say you’re getting hungry?  Well, apologies, but we had to toss all the food.  Because last time I looked, every single morsel of food eaten by every human being on earth is a product of solar energy.  Every fruit, every vegetable:  solar energy, captured by a plant.  Every single piece of meat:  solar energy, captured by a plant that was eaten by an animal.  Every piece of bread or candy or chocolate cake that you have ever eaten, David, or ever will think of eating.  I’m sorry David, but food is out.

David, you’re thirsty?  I’m sorry, you’ll have to go thirsty, too.  Because you see, every drop of fresh water on the planet – all the lakes and streams and the groundwater, all the clouds in the sky and every raindrop – they all are water that has been evaporated and distilled by the sun.  Some wine or fruit juice?  Sorry David.  They’re double solar, plants fueled by the sun, water distilled by the sun.  David, try some seawater.

David, you’re looking ill.  Don’t tell me you drank the seawater.  You need to get to the hospital.  But how shall we get you there?  We can’t call an ambulance, because that darned ambulance runs on gasoline, and that darned gasoline comes from oil, and that darned oil comes from dead plants and animals, and those darned plants and animals … well, hell, David, those darned plants and animals got there thanks to solar energy.  Even if we had some other fuel, David, we’d have to leave behind the tires, and the seats, and the dashboard, and the steering wheel, well just about the whole damned ambulance, even the paint.  Solar, every one.  Sorry David, no ambulance and no ride.

David, you say you’ll pay anything to get out of this place?  You’re offering me a fistful of hundred-dollar bills?  David, my man, much as I’d like the Franklins, I can’t help you.  Those bills are mostly cotton, and there we are back to cotton and the sun.  Put them away, David.  No solar, no Hundies.

David, you’re serious?  You’ll give me your whole empire for a drink of water, a sandwich, and a bathrobe?

Sorry David, I’d love to, but no can do.  You know where your empire comes from, of course.  Asphalt.  Chemicals.  Oil.  And where do those come from?  David, I hate to tell you this, but you are a Solar Energy Billionaire.

And you know what, David.  You, yourself, the living, breathing, anti-solar David Koch, you are 60% water.  You are 60% solar energy.  Take away solar energy, and you’re not only naked, starving, parched, and penniless.  Take away solar energy, David, and you, like all of us, are lifeless, shriveled, a pile of dust.

Furnishings from Westfield State University Support Schools and Orphanages in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

We don’t always get to see or show you the impact that your surplus has improving the lives of recipients.  They don’t have the time or means to stop and take photos and write a “Thank You.”  They’re too busy getting by.

So we’re always happy when we get that kind of feedback.  This is from a project at Westfield State University, done through the Massachusetts State College Building Authority.  The University was replacing furnishings from about 75 campus apartments.  Something over 500 pieces of furniture, including desks and chairs, dressers, dining and coffee and end tables, refrigerators, stoves, and mattresses.  Over two days IRN packed the furniture into three overseas shipping containers.  Through our longtime partner Food for the Poor these were transported and distributed among four schools and orphanages and a shelter in Port-au-Prince, Haiti:

WSU dorm desks used to establish a computer classroom, COHAN-FEDDI
WSU dorm desks used to establish a computer classroom, COHAN-FEDDI

COHAN-FEDDI is an orphanage and school for seven hundred students.  Director Ms. Maud Laurent used the FSU furniture throughout COHAN-FEDDI’s campus:  dressers and mattresses in the orphanage; desks in classrooms; tables and chairs in dining and common areas.  She wrote, “At last, the school is getting better furniture.    I can concentrate on other matters now.”

Surplus WSU tables create a new dining room at the Orphelinat Les Amis de Jesus, outside Port-au-Prince
Surplus WSU tables create a new dining room at the Orphelinat Les Amis de Jesus, outside Port-au-Prince

The Orphelinat (Orphanage) Les Amis de Jesus cares for 20 children.  Claudette Jean Francois is one of the caretakers.  She told FFTP she was in tears when the school received WSU mattresses:  “Thank God for Food For The Poor and the University.  With their donation, the kids will no longer sleep on the cold floor.  No more body aches or sleepless nights.”

WSU seating, tables, and desks upgrade the shelter and community meeting areas at Eglise
WSU seating, tables, and beds upgrade the shelter and community meeting areas at Eglise Saint Louis Marie de Montfort.

The Eglise Saint Louis Marie de Montfort is a community church and shelter in Port-au-Prince.  With the WSU inventory, FFP was able to provide the church with seating for guests and visitors, tables and chairs, and bed sets.

Dressers from Westfield State in a dormitory for infants, Foyer Renmen
Dressers from Westfield State in a dormitory for infants, Foyer Renmen

Foyer Renmen is an orphanage and school that has been serving homeless and needy children for 22 years.  The orphanage currently cares for 45 children, and over 100 more attend classes at the school.  WSU furnishings are supporting all of Foyer Renmen’s programs:  living areas; classrooms; dining and cafeteria; and administration.  Florence Thybulle, the head of Foyer Renmen, reported to FFP, “Thanks specially to the donors that send the furniture.  I am able to organize the kids’ clothing and provide desks.  If Foyer Renmen looks good, it is because of the favor of FFP and the Westfield State University.”


The Joy of Trucks: One

Ursinus Truck
This is a truck. We live by trucks. Most of the time, we love trucks. Except when we don’t.

At IRN we work with trucks every day.  We load hundreds of trucks at hundreds of sites around the country every year.  Trucks are our lifeblood; we live by trucks.  Just call the office and ask to talk to Bill Yorkell.  Bill manages most of our trucks.  Ask Bill if Bill likes trucks.

Like the truck coming to Emerson College in Boston.  The driver calls, he’s ten minutes away.  A half hour later he calls again.  Missed a turn.  We give him directions, he’s ten minutes away.  A half hour later we call him.  He’s at another intersection.  We give him directions, he’s ten minutes away.  Forty-five minutes later, he calls again.  He gives us the name of an intersection.  He says, “This is where I am.  I’m parked and I’m not moving.  If you want me at your location, you can come get me.”  Except he uses more colorful language.  Poor man, he’s been five minutes away all this time.  Somehow he got his eighteen-wheeler up on top of Beacon Hill, where the streets were meant for horses.  Somehow he got his eighteen-wheeler down off Beacon Hill without wrecking any buildings or cars or fire hydrants or pedestrians.  But that was it, he’d had it with Boston, he wasn’t moving.  We sent a one of the moving crew running over the top of Beacon Hill to get him.

Or the truck coming to Rutgers.  He had our address:  350 First Street, New Brunswick.  He calls.  He says, “I’m parked at 350 First Street.”  We’re loading a little ways from there, so I tell him to stay put, I’ll come get him.  I run out to First Street.  No truck.  I run up First Street.  No truck.  I run down First Street.  No truck.  I call the guy back.  “Yes, I’m at 350 First Street,” he says.  “I’m looking at the sign.”  I am at 350 First Street, too, and there is no truck at 350 First Street.  I say to the guy, “What town are you in?”  “East Brunswick,” he says.  The guy is two towns away.  Aaaargh!!  A couple of the movers jump in their car and go get him.

Then there was the trucker in North Carolina who didn’t like where we were loading.   He gets out of his truck, he walks around.  “Won’t do it,” he says.  ”Not enough room.  Not gonna try.”  Of course we had already loaded two trucks at this spot.  So the trucker gets back in his truck, throws it in gear, and starts driving away.  I’ve got a crew of ten movers, furniture pulled out of the building.  So I chase the guy down the street yelling like a mad gorilla, and jump on his running board.  He stops, which he doesn’t have much choice about, with me on his running board screaming into his left ear.  We find a different place to load from, where he is OK placing his rig.  The project goes on.

Emerson did not get to jump on the guy’s running board.  Emerson had a truck coming to Atlanta, on a Saturday morning, with a moving crew that’s getting paid time-and-a-half, with furniture out on the street.  He sees the tractor-trailer drive by.  He flags the guy.  The truck does not stop.  Five minutes later Emerson sees the truck drive by again, going the other direction.  Emerson flags him again.  He does not stop.  Emerson runs down the block and sees the guy’s tail lights, going away.  Going away.  Going round the corner.  After a lot of phone calls we find him.  He is heading back to Savannah; just didn’t feel like being a truck driver today.  More phone calls and we get a backup truck.  The project goes on.

Trucks.  Ask us about trucks.  We live by trucks.  We LOVE trucks.  Most of the time.


Reuse as Standard Practice at the University of Central Missouri


UCM Text Box Brenda Moeder QuoteThe University of Central Missouri is home to 9,500 undergraduate and more than 2,000 graduate students on its campus in Warrensburg, a rural community 60 miles from Kansas City.

Like most schools, UCM replaces its dormitory furnishings on a planned cycle. Along with room furniture, the school turns over lounge, reception, and study furnishings on a regular basis. Consistent with school and state policy, UCM makes its surplus available to the local community through a surplus auction. But the volume of UCM surplus is much more than the local community can absorb. So for the past five years, UCM has had  thousands of used dormitory furnishings that needed disposal.

Until 2010, “disposal” meant “landfill”. The University was able to salvage metal items like bed springs for scrap value, but the majority of UCM’s surplus was discarded as trash: hundreds of desks, chairs, bed frames, dressers, wardrobes, night tables, sofas, and much more. To Dr. Brenda Moeder, UCM’s Associate Director of University Housing, this was a waste, pure and simple. “It’s not furniture one day and trash the next,” she says.  “We knew there had to be a better way.”

The University of Central Missouri provided hundreds of beds, cots, and sets of bedding from a planned furniture replacement.
Within a week of the Joplin tornado in 2011, UCM had rearranged its replacement schedule to provide hundreds of beds, cots and bedding to the relief effort. Dr. Brenda Moeder and UCM staff are pictured with bedframes ready for shipment to Joplin.

In 2010 Dr. Moeder connected with IRN’s Surplus Reuse Program, and things have changed.  In the five years from 2010 to 2014, hardly one piece of UCM’s surplus has found its way into a dumpster.  Instead, more than 15,500 items have found their way to charity.  There is no more waste.

In 2010 UCM completed three different replacement projects spread between May and September. More than 5,300 items were directed to reuse, to recipient organizations in Georgia, and overseas in Jamaica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Sierra Leone,

The next year, 2011, UCM completed two more projects, with most of the surplus provided to the Christian Appalachian Project, and distributed among rural and urban communities in thirteen U.S. states.

2011 also saw the awful tragedy of the Joplin tornado, only 150 miles south of UCM’s campus. Within a week, UCM had rearranged their summer replacement schedule to provide several hundred beds and sets of bedding and blankets to the Joplin relief effort.

In 2012 UCM completed another three furniture replacement projects, and another 3,000 pieces were kept from disposal. One set of furnishings was matched again with the Christian Appalachian Project. The balance were placed with Lifeline Outreach International, a Florida-based charity that supplies relief efforts both in the U.S. and overseas in Africa, Central and South America.

May 2014:  Mules football players Tevin Teamer, left, and Diaron Rhodes help load old furniture from South Yeater Hall on a truck to be shipped to an orphanage in Afghanistan.
May 2014: Mules football players Tevin Teamer, left, and Diaron Rhodes help load old furniture from South Yeater Hall on a truck to be shipped to an orphanage in Afghanistan.

In 2013, 1,740 items were provided to community development projects in El Salvador.

In 2014, 2,500 items have been packed to date (with more scheduled later in the summer); two tractor trailers have been shipped to the University World College in New Mexico, and ten more have been shipped through the charity Life for Relief & Development to schools in Afghanistan.

In total, in the five years UCM has worked with IRN, the school has kept over 1.3 million pounds of furniture out of Missouri landfills, and has shipped more than 60 tractor trailers of usable surplus to charities workings in seven countries and sixteen U.S. states.


UCM 2010-2014 for Case StudyUCM employs professional setup crews, full and part-time custodial staff, and temporary student employees for its surplus reuse projects. These workers – as many as 25 on a large project – remove the furnishings from the buildings and carry them out to the trailers brought in by IRN and IRN’s charitable partners. This is a very low cost solution for UCM; when it’s time to remove the furniture and pack trailers, the university simply diverts these crews from other assignments. IRN sends an onsite project manager to provide general supervision, and UCM’s setup crews work inside the trailers. Their role is to pack as much as possible into each trailer, in order to minimize shipping costs and prevent damage to the furnishings in transit. Lifting and packing heavy and bulky items, this is also skilled and potentially dangerous work, not suitable for untrained workers.

On a typical day, UCM will fill three or four trailers, scheduled at two-and-a-half or three-hour intervals starting at 8:00 or 8:30 AM. If they have time between trailers, the UCM crew will bring down and stage furniture outside, so trailers can be loaded as quickly as possible.


One of UCM’s first reuse projects, Ellis Hall, 2010
One of UCM’s first reuse projects, Ellis Hall, 2010
2012, staging and loading furniture from UCM’s Hosey Hall dormitory
2012, staging and loading furniture from UCM’s Hosey Hall dormitory