Grab Bag Revisited: A Tale of Two Schools

Mac Olsen, an administrator at Edgewood-Colesburg Elementary School

Mac Olsen, an administrator at Edgewood-Colesburg Elementary School, with her Grab Bag finds.

Earlier this week I walked over to  NAEIR’s  Grab Bag area to meet with a couple of member organization representatives – that have different approaches to Grab Bag as well as different sets of needs from those members I interviewed in my Grab Bag 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 posts.  During this particular visit I talked with representatives from Visitation Elementary School and Edgewood-Colesburg Elementary School; two long-time NAEIR members.

I spent some time with Susan Welgat of Visitation Elementary School; a Catholic school in Kewanee, IL, about 45 minutes away from the NAEIR facility. Although Welgat has been a member of NAEIR since its founding in 1977, she’s actually been coming to Grab Bag since NAEIR’s move from the Chicago area to Galesburg, IL in 1986.

Welgat was candid in pointing out that even though that morning’s Grab Bag finds weren’t the best she had ever come across, they were still pretty good pickings. For one thing, she came across garlands that her organization will use as decorations for the school’s upcoming craft bazaar.  She also found a fully functional and comfortable office chair that she would be taking back to the school. In the past, Welgat has found some really useful items for Visitation including a variety of teacher supplies as well as napkins, office supplies, ribbon, and paper products.

Immediately after my time with Susan Welgat, I spoke with Mac Olsen of Edgewood-Colesburg Elementary School in Colesburg, IA, about 2 1/2 hours away.  Olsen told me that her school has been a member forever.  At the time, she couldn’t specifically remember how many years, but apparently the school system has been using NAEIR since as far back as NAEIR has been at its current location.  That would make it a 26 year relationship.  Olsen visits Grab Bag every time her school is eligible for a visit, i.e. – five times a year.  Over the years they have accumulated a plethora of money saving finds from Grab Bag.

Walt Steve and Slyde

From left to right: Clyde Sahn and Walt Woodthorp from Wise Resources in Wausau, WI along with Steve Adams, Grab Bag supervisor, pose with their truck full of items from Grab Bag.

Olsen picked up some Christmas decorations she’ll be using later in the year and some materials like paper supplies, ribbon, and teacher specialty items suitable for craft related projects.  In the past, Olsen has also come across cabinetry as well as counter tops, allowing the school to move forward on some needed renovations without incurring a huge cost.

No matter the type of member organization, the thrust of Grab Bag remains the same.  As was seen in the examples of Calvary Lighthouse, Truth Ministries, and Calvary Christian Academy during my previous posts – Grab Bag represents a valuable money saving asset for virtually any organization.  NAEIR members, who are overwhelmingly creative and forward-thinking in their approach to Grab Bag, make the most of the experience.  They will often further add to the savings of requesting, say, one pallet of goods from the catalogue, by filling up on stuff they find in Grab Bag.

NAEIR members will come from all over in order to capitalize on the opportunity to go through Grab Bag. Today, I talked with members that were as far as 2 1/2 hours away.  Earlier talks a couple of weeks back with members featured  Jonathan  Eklof- who drove 7 hours from Anoka, Minnesota.  Sue Birky and Ann Good traveled 4 hours from Kouts, IN in order to come to NAEIR’s Grab Bag, as did Carl Thomas from Radiant Life Church in Festus, MO. In fact, NAEIR members as far away as California on the West coast and Pennsylvania on the East coast have driven to Galesburg, IL in order to take advantage of the Grab Bag experience while picking up their Catalog allocations.  This just goes to show that members find great value in Grab Bag.   Creative, resourceful member representatives combined with the mystery of not really knowing what “treasures” they might find from one visit to the next, make for productive Grab Bag experiences.

If that isn’t a way of “serving America’s schools and nonprofits through corporate inventory donations” I’m not sure what is!


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