Thursday, June 7, 2012

Donating & Garage Sale Tips

We started collecting donations for refugees back in 2010 when we didn't even ask for them. People would just leave items on my porch or ask if they could give us some things they had. We always said sure! And from there we figured out that it was way easier for someone to give us their "Goodwill" stuff than it was for them to give us even $1. And we knew that we could give the items away to the families that needed the items and then sell anything leftover to use for their real needs.

I love having garage sales. I know, some of you are thinking that you HATE having garage sales. Well, great! Donate your stuff to City of Refuge! My husband also hates them too, so he understands! But I love garage sales because I get to meet interesting people that I would never meet otherwise. And the people buying the items feel like they are getting a good deal and we are making money for our non-profit so we feel like we are getting a good deal. I see it as a win-win. But yes, it is a lot of work.

I thought it might be fun to write a light-hearted guide as to what you should donate/sell or what you should just throw away.

I have found that it is hard for many of us to just throw stuff away. When I was a kid I was even taught this. If I had a shirt with a stain on it we would often donate it. I remember thinking "maybe some poor person would like this." I think that's the problem. We see "some poor person" as a person who really doesn't exist in America. Some of my friends are the poorest people in our city and they like the same kind of clothes we do.  They don't want a shirt that's stained, shorts that ripped, or an outfit that was from 2 decades ago. So here is a general guideline:

1) Organs - I learned this the hard way. No one wants an organ. Don't accept one unless YOU want one. And definitely don't do what I did and hire an electric company to fix a cord on it. Lesson learned.

2) T-shirts from Events - Throw them away. No one wants your Blood Drive shirt from 2005.

3) Stained Clothes - Throw them away. The non-profit you give the item to is just going to throw them away, so save them a step and you throw it away yourself. You can do it. Make the clothes into something if you need to, but don't donate them.

4) Ripped Clothes - I had someone this week donate a jacket that had so many rips I didn't even care to start counting and ripped shorts. It's ok. Throw them away. You don't want it and no one else does either.

5) Dirty Underwear - No kidding. Throw them away.

6) Bras - Believe it or not they sell very well. Donate them.

7) Swimsuits - They are also a hot item. Donate them!

8) Clothes from 2 Decades ago that still aren't cool - Throw them away.

9) Knick Knacks - Even the oddest ones sell, so donate all of them!!

10) Christmas trees with a strand of lights that are out - Unless you personally know someone who wants it throw it away. You can post it on Facebook and see if you can find someone but these do not sell because garage sales are held in the summer and hardly anyone is thinking about Christmas when it's hot.

11) Baby Items - Everyone loves this stuff, so donate it!

12) Towels/Washcloths - Great items to donate!

13) VHS tapes that you or your dad taped shows on - I know you really enjoyed these shows growing up but no one wants to buy them so just throw them away. Many people don't even have a VHS player anymore so it's hard enough to sell the ones in the nice packages.

14) Old TVs - Ok, so I don't know why but these don't sell. I would see if anyone you know needs a TV. We donate them and I really don't understand why people won't buy the used ones even when we have them plugged in and a show playing on them.

15) Kitchen Items - Hot items! Donate them because lots of people need kitchen stuff and you can easily sell them in a garage sale if you price it right.

So, here is just a start. Thanks for donating to City of Refuge and the other non-profits in town.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Givers Gain

The motto of the networking club I'm in, BNI, is "givers gain". No matter how much I give to the refugees I get back so much more and tonight was just one small example of that.

Ali is a boisterous Iraqi man who lives in Columbia. I love to imitate him because he is so wonderfully happy and enthusiastic. (Just ask me some time to give you my imitation!) He called me tonight because he and his wife were thinking of me. They both cleaned for Safi Sana this past year and it had been awhile since I had seen them.

I visited their new Habitat for Humanity home. I saw it this summer right before they moved in but they have since done a lot of work on it. It really is the neatest Habitat home I have ever seen. They turned their carport into an enclosed family room and made their yard into an oasis with swings, patio furniture, and a decorative well. They also saved and spent money buying very nice furniture for the inside of the home. I was genuinely impressed! Shurok has an amazing eye for decorating!

I told Ali and his family that our family was moving. He said "I will take that day off and I will come help you. I will come at 8:00am and I will help you move boxes in my van all day." My heart melted. Recently I heard a quote from Mark Driscoll, the pastor from Mars Hill Seattle, say you know who your friends are when you move. So for Ali to say he would spend all day helping us and even take the day off was so kind.

I don't get paid to do what I do but I am a very rich woman in friendship because of it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Why Do Safi Sana?

For those of you who don't know, Safi Sana is the cleaning business of City of Refuge. I first started it as a for profit corporation to hire my African refugee friends who desperately needed jobs. Then in November of last year I started the non-profit City of Refuge which cares and provides for needs of the refugees in Mid-Missouri and made Safi Sana a part of the non-profit. The goal then became for Safi Sana to help support the non-profit.

For those of you who have never owned or run a company, it's hard at times. Every couple months I ask myself, "why are we doing this?" Today I'm asking myself, "Am I causing too much stress on my friend Lauren who is my general manager? Is anyone benefiting? Is City of Refuge benefiting? Should we keep doing this? Why are we doing this at this point of time?"

I don't expect Safi Sana to continue forever because managing it is so difficult. I know how difficult it is because I did it myself for more than a year. Not only do you have the normal frustrations of employees calling in sick, not performing well every time, but also with Safi Sana we have some employees who don't speak English fluently, some who don't read English and some who don't have any sense of direction. This causes a lot of headaches and trouble for us who manage Safi Sana.

Then on top of the employee difficulties, we also from time to time have clients who don't pay or who are not kind. (Though thankfully both of these are rare if you look at the whole of all our clients.)

So, why do Safi Sana? If you look at the profitability of Safi Sana you would find that it is not very profitable. We give a majority of our money to our employees and the rest goes to buying cleaning supplies and paying taxes and insurance. Thankfully from time to time we do have enough profit to help City of Refuge, but if profitability were the only reason to keep Safi Sana open today we would close it. However, Lauren and I are working on this and trying to increase the amount of money the company can give the non-profit so that hopefully in the future Safi Sana will be a big blessing to the non-profit.

Here is why I like doing Safi Sana:

1) We love the high of our clients loving the refugees in town. Our cleaning business has more than just refugees working for it, but still about half of our employees are refugees and we get such a kick out of clients who absolutely adore the refugees who work for them. We have numerous examples of this, but one of my favorites from this year came from a lady who asked us to please "not send a refugee". Her thought was that she wouldn't be able to communicate with a refugee, which can be true at times, but is not always true. After looking at the schedule and really not having any other options, we sent Cing Cing. Cing Cing is one of our favorite refugees. She is from Burma and really you would never know she was a refugee unless she said something. The lady immediately fell in love with Cing Cing and even took her home a couple times.

2) We help people - refugees, immigrants and Americans. I could go down our employee list and give you story after story of employees who were desperate for a job and we helped them. Monia is just one example. She quit Safi Sana this week, at least for now. But she is a immigrant from Tunisia, a Muslim woman, who desperately wanted and needed to work. She was unable to find work because of her shy demeanor and her busy class schedule. We fit her into a couple jobs and helped her provide for herself for the last several months. So when days are really stressful or discouraging I think of who is working for us now who wouldn't be able to get a job anywhere else. They don't thank us 99% of the time, but we know we are helping them and their family.

3) I like that refugees are meeting people in town. If they just worked for Linen King, MBS, or Kraft they wouldn't be interacting with hardly anyone in town. This way people in our city are learning why refugees are here in Columbia and how really they are just like us.

So, with God's help and blessing, we will do this another day.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sometimes Jesus Makes Stuff Go A Long Way

As I wrote the title of this blog post it reminded me of the story in the New Testament with the little boy who had the loaves and fish and Jesus fed the crowd lunch that day, performing a miracle by making the lunch feed a multitude of people. I picked up some baby donations yesterday and I'm overwhelmed with joy as to how many people I've been able to bless with them.

Yesterday was one of those great days which I thrive on. I'm sure anyone who runs a non-profit feels the same way I do, it's nice to have days when things just go well.

A lady from The Crossing Church called me over Labor Day weekend and said that she got my name from my sister-in-law and had some baby clothes and other baby stuff that she wanted to donate to City of Refuge. We planned on Friday afternoon as our pick up time. I went over there and loaded my Honda Pilot with baby gear and loaded the entire back of her pick-up truck with a baby swing, changing table, and baby bassinet.

So the donations alone would have been exciting, but I wanted to get to know her a little bit so I asked her where her husband worked. She said at a property management company. I told her about Safi Sana, our cleaning company that helps support the non-profit and told her we clean apartments and homes. She said that she has asked for a regular house cleaner for Christmas so she might want to use as well, but would also pass the information along to her husband. So great.

What we do when we get donations is pass along items that we know the refugees need and then sell the other items so we can help pay for the needs they really do have. In the mound of donations I picked up was a saucer that a friend of mine earlier in the week told me she wanted. Our general manager of Safi Sana bought it for her. My friend Heather texted me as soon as I got home with the donations asking me if I had a car seat she could buy and then bring in to Toys R Us to get 25 percent off a new one. I told her that I had a really nice infant car seat that she might actually want to buy. She came over and loved it as well as the bassinet. I bought those items for her as her shower gifts. I also found 2 other items I'm going to buy and use as shower gifts. So we were able to make more than $100 for City of Refuge that will go to directly helping refugees. We are getting ready to write a dentist a check or $400 for Leocadi, Francois' mom, so the money will go straight there.

Then today I separated the rest of the clothes and baby gear. Silas and his wife are African refugees getting ready to have a baby this week! They picked up an infant car seat, toddler car seat, changing table, boppy pillow, swing and lots of blankets and clothes. I will deliver the rest of the clothes and blankets to Lulu, the Burmese girl who will also probably deliver this week! Lulu is the Burmese girl I mentioned in the last post who had nothing for her baby. I'm delivering enough clothes for the baby's entire first year.

Ah. Thank you so much Jesus and the girls that gave.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Tale of 2 Baby Showers

Today I went to 2 baby showers. The first one was for one of my American friends. It was a perfect baby shower - lots of great food, pretty ladies, balloons, games and lots of gifts for my friend. From the look of everything she got almost everything she needed.

The second baby shower was for one of my Burmese friends. The food was also great and there were lots of people there, but only 4 gifts. I watched my friend open her gifts and I enjoyed teaching her how to swaddle and how to use Desitin, the thermometer and children's ibprofen. After she was finished opening, I asked her if she had a car seat for the baby. She said, through an interpreter, no. She pointed to a toddler car seat that someone just brought her, but she knew that wouldn't work for the baby. I asked her if she had a bed for the baby. She said, no. I asked her if she needed one or if she had a plan as to where the baby would sleep. She said they would like a bed. She then said everything they had for the baby was right here - diapers, wipes, 2 onesies, 1 newborn sleeper, 1 0-3 month sleeper, a thermometer, Desitin, blankets, socks and that's it. It's moments like these that I wish I could introduce her to a bunch of people because I know people would be giving to her if they knew her. But how would my friends be able to meet her? I couldn't just say, "well, good luck with that" and leave. So I said, "can you go shopping with me?" We went and bought her a pack-n-play (her choice of a bed), car seat, and bouncer. I smiled and told her that now the baby could come.

I used the money that we earned from the garage sale this week to pay for these items. So, thanks for contributing to the sale and thanks for helping out.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Current Ways to Give to City of Refuge

I wish I could trade places with the people in this world who have lots of money and don't know what to do with it. If you are one of those people, well, you've come to the right place. Or if you want to give $5 to something to make a difference in somebody's life, well you've come to the right place.

Marianne Bihomora was praying just today that God would help her have enough money to have a cell phone. She couldn't pay her bill this past month so she no longer has a cell phone and it's absolutely so important for her to have a phone. This should be a business expense that Safi Sana picks up, but we can't afford it now. And you will have to hear my heart and trust that this unfortunately is really the case. So, can you pray for her? Or do you want to help her?

Also, starting on Tuesday, Noe Rusaya will have a full time job as public health administrator for the refugees. Adam is employing him at Tiger Pediatrics to do this position until we can find a grant or donors that will help us do this. Why do we need this in Columbia? Well normally pediatricians are coaches that tell parents what they need to do to help their child. So, one of our refugee kids was diagnosed with an iron deficiency a few years ago. The pediatrician told the mom to either take her son outside more during the day or supplement with iron pills which he/she prescribed. The mom doesn't have a car, a license, and her Medicaid is always on again/off again. Because of this her toddler is now probably mentally retarded. Noe's new job will help take kids to their primary care doctor, to the specialist, and will follow up on specific kids to make sure they are taking their medicine, have their medicine, etc. Adam said that as a whole we were doing a "C" job in taking care of the refugee children and we needed to do better. If you have any grant ideas, please let me know. I'm looking but it's not easy to find. What I do plan on doing is offering a grant from City of Refuge to Tiger Pediatrics, but the amount will vary based on the interest of those giving. Adam will be able to recapture about 1/3 of Noe's salary so I'm looking to help offset the cost of the 2/3. Want to give $5 towards this?

And finally, Caritas. We have been supporting Caritas since January and I've had to stop giving her a salary until we get more donations. Caritas is like a second mom to almost all the African children. She is in her car daily driving the refugees around and helping them with their numerous needs. If you are interested in helping her, let us know.

We've made it easier to give to City of Refuge. You can now give on a regular basis or a one-time basis using your credit card. Just email us at and let us know what you want to support, how often, and we will take care of the rest.

If you are one of those people who doesn't really like to give money, but you have a lot of time then you could help us by having a garage sale. We even have donations that we can help bring over. You price it, sell it, and we will come and pick up whatever doesn't sell.

Thanks for helping us help hundreds of refugees in our city.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Ali and Shurok, Our Fun Iraqi Family

Remember that song in the Disney movie, "Prince Ali, Fabulous He..." Well, we have our own Ali in Columbia! Ali is a fun, boisterous man with lots of funny things to say. He always makes me laugh. His wife Shurok has not been able to speak English very well but is starting to come out of her shell as she is able to communicate more and more.

We have now had 2 apartment complexes call and specifically request that Ali and Shurok clean for them. (Wow!) Ali, Shurok and their daughter often clean together as a family in the evenings or on their days off. Ali and Shurok both have full time jobs at the Hampton Inn and work for us when they aren't working there. I really like people who like to work hard, so I'm a big fan of Ali and Shurok.

We at City of Refuge met Ali and Shurok the first week they came to Columbia. They soon learned about our cleaning business Safi Sana, but Ali spoke English well enough we knew he would be able to find a different job and soon did.

Ali has a degree in physics and will hopefully finishing an additional degree at Columbia College. He was just telling us last night about how happy he was that Columbia College knows that the university he went to in Iraq was a good one at that time and that they know which classes he has taken and which ones he still needs. His real hope is to teach physics in Columbia some where and we have the same hope for him.

Last night Ali and Shurok brought over a plate of Iraqi "Cuba". It's a hamburger ball that is wrapped in rice, salted and fried. It was good. Ali told us that it takes 2 hours to make. Wow. I tried to think of a time that it took me 2 hours to make some type of food for someone else and I couldn't think of a time. My kids even liked it, which is amazing since they are picky eaters.

So, if you haven't met Ali and Shurok, wow, you must. They are fun.