United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee started the Gifts-in-Kind program in 2016. It was humble beginnings with the first year taking in 5,694 items worth over $430,000. The items donated and distributed included office furniture, brand-new shoes, clothing, a vehicle, and more. In just a year, those numbers doubled and have grown every year since.
Each year, the United Way Gifts-in-Kind program gets such a wide variety of physical donations and has built strong partnerships with national and regional retail chains such as Publix, Jofran Furniture, and Matter Brothers Furniture, as well as local business and community leaders, and charitable individuals. These items directly go to our partner agencies at no cost to them. This helps the hard-earned money that the agencies depend on go directly to their programs rather than buying desks, decorations, or filing cabinets!
In 2020 alone, the UW Gifts-in-Kind program saw over $5.5 million worth of goods come into their warehouse to then be distributed directly back into the community. That’s over 1.2 million items that helped our local agencies and programs! We’ve been able to donate cars to those supporting their family and severely in need, furnish entire households after major hurricanes or homelessness, donate tens of thousands of school supplies to local schools and teachers, and office furniture to agencies with major floods. This program has allowed us to be there to donate holiday meals to those in need, Christmas toys to foster families and clean clothing to students without it. We have seen countless smiles of those who found exactly what they were looking for in our inventory.
To date, the UW Gifts-in-Kind program has distributed 1,919,535 items that are valued at $12,359,317 to Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee communities. This program does not resell any donated goods and ensures that each item goes to those that need it most.
This year, the UW Gifts-in-Kind website was launched where our partner agencies can log in and physically see the items we currently have available to them. This tool allows them to see photos, measurements, and check-out easily to expedite our ability to get these important items to those that need them. In 3 short months, we’ve fulfilled 121 online orders and look forward to continuing to make a lasting impact.