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Caring and Sharing initiative brings together groups, hundreds of people

May 13, 2008
By ANNA TELATOVICH atelatovich@sungazette.com
A virtual department store of once loved household goods, clothes, furniture, food and more is benefiting local families this week, thanks to the donations of Bucknell University students, the hands, hearts and minds of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lycoming County and St. James Episcopal Church in Muncy.

In its third year, Caring and Sharing opened the doors to a stockpile of goods to more than 40 needy families referred by local nonprofit agencies Monday.

Hundreds of other men, women and children will benefit from the recycling and redistribution effort through Friday.

‘‘I’d love to say that we could benefit 500 people,’’ said Damon Anderson, Big Brothers Big Sisters executive director.

Anderson said more families were referred for Caring and Sharing than ever before. Thankfully, there were more donations and more space at the Salvation Army than the Campbell Street Center where the project was housed the past two years.

‘‘Maybe we can become the place where this happens every year,’’ Salvation Army Major Steven Stoops said Monday morning.

Families will receive an equal allotment of items as they come through by Thursday. On Friday, families can return to choose from the remaining goods. ‘‘We want everything to go,’’ said Bethany Horstman, an AmeriCorps Vista with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Items came from Bucknell students moving out for the summer. According to Rachael Gebely, Bucknell residential life coordinator, the project is ‘‘an opportunity for a second life for things that students can’t fit into their car or no longer fit into their lifestyle.’’

Televisions, lamps, bedding, carpets, mirrors, children’s car seats, and shoes are among the items Bucknell students have made a possibility for local families. ‘‘Students are happy that if they can’t use it, they know that someone can,’’ Gebely said.

One 26-foot and one 16-foot Penske truck transported the items from Lewisburg to the city. Anderson said the ‘‘very deep discount’’ from the company made Caring and Sharing a possibility.

The community outreach began when Linda Potter of St. James said ‘‘Yes,’’ Anderson said.

Potter said the idea began when a friend told her he was going to the Bucknell campus to scour what the students left on the curb and sell it at a flea market.

‘‘Nothing more happened about that at all until two years later when a thought dropped into my head,’’ Potter said. ‘‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get those things and give them to the underprivileged?’’ she said.

After contacting the university, which designated areas for students to donate items, members of Potter’s church drove down, gathered the items and stored them in garages. ‘‘The next big challenge was who we could give it to,’’ Potter said.

After the hope of a storefront for the items failed to materialize, Potter contacted area nonprofit agencies. ‘‘I didn’t really get too much interest until I got ahold of Damon,’’ she said of Anderson.

‘‘Damon has been a Godsend. He was the answer to our prayer and through him we were able to get it to the people.’’

Potter said she was excited about the increasing support of Bucknell students, Big Brothers Big Sisters, AmeriCorps, St. James and the future of Caring and Sharing.

‘‘When something is meant to be, it has a way of coming together. It’s been such a blessing to me. Through this whole project, our church worked very hard and we reached many more people than we could independently.’’

Anderson said that if more people were ‘‘willing to do something a little crazy,’’ the number of lives touched could grow exponentially. ‘‘Wouldn’t this be great if each university and each college in our country did this. We could serve 50,000 easily.’’

Reflecting on the success of and support for Caring and Sharing, Potter said ‘‘Sometimes I just get tears in my eyes.’’

Three AmeriCorps Vistas, Volunteers In Service to America, are placed with Big Brothers Big Sisters currently. Along with Horstman, they hope to use Caring and Sharing as a national model and best practice.

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