I have been a busy person this week. On April 30, The Friendly Kitchen was destroyed by fire. This is Concord’s only soup kitchen, and it holds a special place in the hearts of my Pathfinder Club. For the past five years, they have been one of the targets of our club’s community service efforts. Once or twice per year we make 100 sack lunches for them, and any time we have leftover citrus from that fundraiser, we take it to them. I know that’s a very small drop in a very large pool, as they’ve been serving 60,000 meals per year.

Since the fire, they have been serving meals from the Greek Orthodox Church downtown. In fact, they transitioned into their building so quickly that they didn’t miss serving a single meal. But this is a temporary measure, and they are trying to raise money to rebuild. I wanted us to do something else for them to help them with that.

Every year, our club has a yard sale on Memorial Day. This year I wanted to send some of that to The Friendly Kitchen. So I started getting my ducks in a row.

On Sunday I brought it up at our Pathfinder staff meeting. They all agreed that it was an excellent idea, and we decided then that we would give half of our proceeds to the kitchen. That’s significant, because the yard sale is our biggest money-maker, so we could be giving up a pretty significant chunk of change.

On Monday I presented the plan to the church board. We want to advertise this yard sale more widely than we have in the past, and we want to accept donated goods for the sale from the public. But if we were to do that, we would need to establish some definite hours of operation, and for that, I would need to line up volunteers to accept the goods. But I also thought it would be a bad idea to open our church to the public without the approval of the church board. When I presented the plan to them, they supported it unanimously.

On Tuesday I contacted the Friendly Kitchen. I didn’t want to do that before I had buy in from my Pathfinder staff and permission from the church board. After all, either of these would have put the kibosh on the plan. I thought it was important to get permission from The Friendly Kitchen as well, thinking that someone might call them to see what this was all about. If they had no idea, this would look like a pretty obvious scam. Unsurprisingly, The Friendly Kitchen was enthusiastic about our plan.

I then crafted an email plea to our church membership and sent it out to our list. I wanted to get commitments from people to staff the building during our donation reception hours. It was a little slow getting started, but eventually, I had commitments for nine two-hour slots.

Today (Thursday) we went to the press with it. I put an ad on Craigslist, and my deputy director sent info to the TV station in Manchester and to Concord’s main newspaper. We still need to get the info to more outlets though. I think that a Thursday notice for an event that should start on Sunday should be plenty of time for them to act. I just hope they will!

Now I have to exhale. Tomorrow Va and I are taking Beth to Camp Lawroweld for the Adventurer’s Club Annual Spring Escape. Those are always lots of fun, but there will be no Internet service there (and barely any cell phone service). This will force me to let go of the Friendly Kitchen project and leave the rest to the Lord!

Hey God – You’re on now!

I slept late again today, and that’s going to bite me tomorrow when I have to get up and go to work. I guess I shouldn’t complain about having to go to work though, as there are plenty of people who wish they had that problem.

It was raining when I woke up, and I guess it continued with that through most of the day. We still have some snow in the yard though. I hope we get some more snow again soon though, because I don’t like having bare spots in the yard. It’s just not as pretty! I did take a look at the roof of my house again. There was still snow up there above where I insulated, but plenty of bare roof where I haven’t yet. So that is clearly having the desired effect. There were no ice dams on either side, but I expect there would be on the back side if conditions were just right.

I did a little more knitting, and then Va, Beth, and I headed into Concord. First we ran a few errands, ate lunch at Olive Garden, and then we went to the church. I loaded all our unsold fruit into the trunk of the car. It came to about eleven or twelve cases. Beth and I drove that over to Friendly’s Kitchen which is a place where homeless (and not homeless) people can get two meals per day. They were delighted to see a dozen cases of citrus, and the lady helped me load them into their walk-in fridge. Even though we had that much fruit left over, we still managed to turn a profit on the fruit this month, so I do not at all regret buying as much as I did. In fact, I think I should always order an extra four cases for them. They do important work.

After that we ran a few more errands. Va had intended to get a Raggedy Andy for Beth for Christmas, but it somehow had fallen off the list. We found one at Toy-R-Us. Then we stopped at Target and I found a flashlight designed to clip onto the brim of a cap. Well, I don’t wear a cap, but I do wear a hat with a brim. I had even thought about trying to outfit it with LED’s and a battery at one point, because the standard headband lights just don’t work well with my hat. But there is no need to do that now. I tried it out when I got home and was mighty pleased.

When we got home, Beth was asking me to teach her how to knit. For that, she’s going to need her own needles, since I am in the middle of knitting that scarf (it’s about 18 inches long now), and it looks like it’ll be a couple of weeks before that’s done. Meanwhile, I had been eyeing some yarn Va bought five years ago or so so she could use it to make “hair” for a prop. It’s some super bulky yarn, and in my reading on the subject, I found that super bulky is great when you want to knit something fast, such as… a scarf. For that you need bigger needles though (as in more diameter). And what is the essence of a knitting needle anyhow? It’s pretty much a smooth, pointy stick. I figured I had some dowels in the basement that might be pressed into service, so I went down there and found some half inchers. Then I whittled points on them and smoothed the points with a block plane. Then I showed Beth how to knit a scarf. We’re using the garter stitch on hers so she won’t have the “tendency to curl” problem that mine will be cursed with. It worked pretty OK, except that I left out the “smooth” characteristic. The wood was catching yarn fibers. As soon as we finished a row though, I took the free one back to the basement and sanded it down. Then she knit another row and I gave the other one the same treatment. They’re working pretty well now, and her scarf is already five inches long. If she can keep her interest in it, she’ll have a scarf in no time.

In other news, I found another software package to serve as our school library’s card catalog: OpenBiblio. It’s a LOT simpler than Koha, and I had it installed and configured (for testing purposes) on my laptop in under five minutes. It took a little longer on the production machine, and I still have a web server issue to work out with it, but it is ready for Va to start keying in the data. Woot!

Tonight was our last night selling citrus at Sam’s Club. David and I were the only ones there for the first two hours, and it was bone-chillingly cold. I remembered that I had some hand-warmer things in the glove compartment of my car, and I slipped one into each of my shoes to try to thaw out my toes. It seemed to work. My toes never did feel “warm”, but they did quit feeling frozen.

About an hour into it, one of the managers came outside and asked if we were from the church next door. I told her that yes, we certainly were, and she handed me a grant application. They had just gone over their books and found that they still had $2K or so of grant money to donate this year, and they wanted us (and the Salvation Army) to apply for it. Cool!

When I got home I took a look at the grant request form. They want us to explain how the grant will help the local community. Hmmm. I’m convinced it will help the local community, but I’m not convinced of my ability to convince them that it will.

We’ve been selling the fruit to raise money to take our Pathfinder club on a mission trip to Latin America next December. It’s going to cost about $1,500 per person, and I estimate that we will send about 20 people. That’s $30K, which is a lot of money (to me anyhow). We don’t have a specific destination yet, because we’re planning to go on a trip set up by Maranatha, and they have not yet announced which trips will be available that far into the future.

My task is to explain how sending kids on a mission trip to Latin America benefits the local community here. My thoughts are that when the people who go on this trip see how the undeveloped world lives, they will be forever changed. They will seek a life of service to their fellow man, and that almost has to benefit the local community. But will Sam’s Club see it that way? I don’t know!

When I asked them for permission to sell fruit at their exit door, they knew that I was from “the church next-door” which is entirely true. They approved my request before I ever got a chance to explain the Pathfinders part. The one thing I do know about selling ideas is that you should quit selling when they say yes. Otherwise, you might talk them out of it!

I could request the money to fund the Pathfinder program. We already have funding, but more never hurts. Our club absolutely does benefit our community, as we do all sorts of things (that I often chronicle here) in that vein. For example, we collect canned goods for the needy, prepare lunches for the homeless, perform flag retirement ceremonies, go carolling at the police and fire stations, visit nursing homes, and visit shut-ins. I have plans for us to pick up litter at parks, trails, or streams, but I haven’t yet managed to work that in yet. We worked on the Disaster Response honors so that if there is a disaster, we will be ready to help. We provide a positive environment where kids learn to serve their fellow man. The list goes on and on.

On the other hand, we could use it for more than just Pathfinders. Perhaps we could build a storage shed to store some of our Community Services supplies (used clothing, food, and furniture, etc). Our church routinely hands that sort of thing out to people in need, and in this economy, that need is ever-present.

So while the prospect of this grant money is very exciting, and the managers at Sam’s have all but told me it’s ours, I’m still trying to figure out how to fill out the request form.

Today we did a bit of Christmas shopping. David got a replacement Nintendo DS, and Beth got her very first one. We offered her a choice between a DS and horse riding lessons this spring/summer. I was kinda surprised at her choice, but the “right now” thing is pretty strong in an eight year old. I just thought the horse thing might have been stronger.

We plan to get Jonathan a laptop as a combination Christmas/graduation gift. But he has to graduate first. That’s part of the deal. He was none too happy with us tonight for sticking to that plan. He’s close, but he’s not there yet. He’ll make it before the spring semester starts though. He’s going to take classes at the community college for this spring, and maybe next fall he’ll go elsewhere. We’ll see.

After shopping, we ate at Applebees, and then I headed to the church to meet the crew from Portsmouth. The arrived at the arranged time, and David and I helped load their fruit. Then we hung around waiting for the Pathfinder meeting to start.

During the meeting we wrapped up several trays of fruit into “giftable” packages. We’ll try to sell that at Sam’s Club tomorrow. And keep at it until it’s either all gone or we bump into Christmas. At that point, anything that’s left goes to the homeless shelter.

Tonight we unloaded 77 cases of oranges, grapefruit, and tangerines. Actually, it was more than that, because Portsmouth had their order delivered to our location too (only they didn’t show up to get it!) Their order was 48 cases. I had about a dozen people on hand to help unload, which was very nice. We separated our order from Portsmouth’s, and then divided and labelled the ones we had pre-sold.

Va and I had driven separately. I needed to be at the church at 4:30 to unload, but the labels weren’t ready yet (I had not given her the data in time, so my bad). Also, David was out walking Penny when I needed to leave, so he caught a ride with Va.

After we finished unloading, sorting, dividing, and labelling the fruit, we headed to Taco Bell and grabbed some supper. Va reminded me that I had promised to deliver a case of grapefruit to a home-bound church member. So after Taco Bell, Beth and I went back to the church, grabbed the grapefruit, and went to this lady’s house. Only she wasn’t there. I guess she’s not as home-bound as I had thought. I brought her fruit home with me and will try again tomorrow.

I stopped at Market Basket today after work and spoke with a manager to see if they’d let the Pathfinders sell fruit on the sidewalk in a couple of weeks. Nope. They only allow one group at a time, and the Salvation Army already has dibs. I wouldn’t want to put those good folks out, so I certainly do not begrudge them of this.

So counting the Walmart in Tilton, and now this Market Basket, that’s two strikes. As soon as I left Market Basket, I went to Sal’s, a pizza joint that I frequent. They kinda know me, as one of them is the father of a co-worker, and another is her husband. But neither of them were in, so I decided to try again tomorrow during lunch. Counting the pizza place, and the Walmart in Concord from whom I have heard nada, that’s two balls. I seriously doubt that the Walmart in Concord will allow us to operate there, so maybe I should count that as a foul instead. But then again, I’m not that into baseball, so maybe I should just drop that analogy. Balls don’t convert to strikes.

Meanwhile, we have ordered some cellophane gift bags, wire ties, and some ribbon. Still to come are some plastic trays. We’re getting all that in bulk and wholesale, and we plan to repackage the fruit for December to make it more giftable. I sure hope that works. We will have to up the price to cover the packaging, but I don’t see that as a big problem.

Another meanwhile, is that pre-orders are down this month. December has traditionally been our best month, but this month it’s looking pretty bad. My co-workers usually buy four or five cases, but this month it has been zero. We may have to start going door-to-door, I dunno. If it comes to that, it’ll be after Christmas, and then only if we still have fruit left. Whichever way you look at it, it’s clear to me that we’re not going to Latin America on orange sales. We need another fundraiser.

Luckily, I have something in mind that might just be the ticket, and I am actively pursuing it now. I’ve been sitting on this idea for ten years. I’d say more, but I don’t want to give it away!

Yesterday I wrote about how the manager at the Walmart in Tilton told me I needed to write a letter on our non-existent letterhead requesting permission to fundraise at their exit. She told me I would need to address it to “Stacy, the personnel manager.” OK. I wanted her last name so I could write a proper letter, so I called the Walmart and asked to speak with “Stacy in personnel.” I was soon speaking with her and explaining what I wanted to do. I was just about to ask her what her last name was when she told me that I had been told the wrong thing. They only require a letter if we were asking them for a handout, which I was not.

Whew! Then she asked me when we wanted to do our fundraising. I gave her the two dates we wanted (both in December). No dice. The Salvation Army will be there then, and they only allow one group to operate at a time. January was available though. That was not what I wanted to hear.

Sam’s Club has the same rule, but they never mentioned it to me (it was spelled out in the form I had to sign though). Now my fear is that I’ll get a rejection from the Concord Walmart as well on the same grounds. I sure hope not.

Now I’m trying to figure out where else we could do this. Maybe Target? One of the grocery chains? I don’t know! We might also be able to get four days at Sam’s instead of two, but that would put us there on Christmas Eve. Not ideal, but I think it’s better than nothing.

Today after work my mission was to get permission for the Pathfinders to sell fruit at Sam’s Club as well as at two Walmarts (Concord and Tilton). I went to Sam’s first and spoke to the same person who was so helpful to us in November. She gladly put our name on her calendar and seemed happy that we had done well last week,

Then I went to the Walmart.in Concord. I was expecting that it would work out about the same, because the form I filled out at Sam’s also had the name “Walmart” on it. From that I concluded that it was a uniform policy that applied to all their stores, if not across the country, then at least across the region. But that conclusion was incorrect. Walmart handed me a different form which wanted to know all kinds of details about who we were, what we wanted to do, what we would do with the money we raised, how we benefit the community, etc. I filled all of that in and gave them the form. They said they’d be in touch. Hrmmm. Not exactly what I was hoping for, but not completely discouraging either.

Then I headed to Tilton. I didn’t know if it would be a Sam’s experience, one like the Concord Walmart, or something different. It was something different. They told me I had to submit a request in writing on our organization’s letterhead. “OK! Thanks!” I said, but on the inside I was rolling my eyes. We don’t even have letterhead. But we can make some. And I guess we will.

Anyhow. Subject change.

This morning I got a call from a lady in Concord who wanted to donate some food. She told me she had missed the pickup time and wanted to know if it was too late. I told her that we could still accept food donations, got her address, and drove over there to pick it up during my lunch break. She didn’t live in the area where we distributed bags, but that’s OK with me. We had another person do that last year, only they seemed really put out that we didn’t hit their neighborhood. I’m glad and thankful that people respond to these requests though.

This marks my last post in November. The goal was to post every day this month, and with this post, I have done that (plus one – I posted twice in one day a little while back). So I guess I’m an official NoBloPoMo something or another now. That means I get to show one of these: Yay me!

Tonight we set up our fruit stand at the exit to Sam’s Club. It was tough going at first. NOBODY wanted oranges. But soon enough people did start to buy it. I shouldn’t have been surprised that everyone who did buy fruit opted for the quarter cases. That was the only size that ended up selling. Period. Luckily, that’s also the most profitable size for us to sell to, but we have to sell a lot of it. We brought 12 cases with us. We sold about half that in 24 transactions.

The kids had a system going after a while. One would stand near the door, make eye contact, and say “Would you like to buy some oranges?” More often than not, they would say no, and that’s when two more kids would say “Happy Thanksgiving!” That almost always brought a smile (but not always).

I was hoping we’d have sold it all in the first night, but that didn’t happen. Looks like we’ll do it again tomorrow.

Today has been a long day. We went to church, and then after the services Va had an Adventurer meeting. I helped her set up, and I cooked some mac-n-cheese for some of the refugee kids (and my own kids) that go to our church. They don’t usually bring food to a potluck, and that is entirely understandable.

The Adventurer meeting ended at about 3:00pm, and the fruit truck was due to arrive at 5:00. So rather than drive home (30 minutes) and then drive back (another 30 minutes), Jonathan, Beth, and I went geocaching. Va went on home, and David hung out at the church with his netbook surfing the web.

The geocache was on the other side of a pond that I am convinced was built to be an artificial wetland. We walked around it and about the time I decided we were at ground zero, Beth found the cache. Even before I had started looking! Then we hustled back to the church to wait for the truck.

It was a short wait. Beth wrote a few things in her blog while we waited. She had also written a little this morning which I found pretty funny.

When the truck arrived, Jonathan, David, and I were the only able-bodied people there. Several had told me that they had intended to help us unload, but none had yet arrived. I directed the truck to park in the back, and by the time he stopped the truck and opened the doors, people started to arrive. At first they came in a trickle, but then in a torrent! I didn’t count them all, but I feel confident in estimating the number at about 25, and that was just the people from our church. We were also the drop point for the church in Manchester, and they had plenty of people on hand as well.

The truck was unloaded in record time. I think this was the most people I have ever seen at a fruit-truck-unloading. We began sorting the fruit and dividing some of the crates (we sell half- and quarter-crates in addition to full ones). Va had printed out some mailing labels for me that had people’s names and their orders on them. Cheryl took on the task of applying the labels to the boxes, and pretty soon everyone who was there and who had ordered some fruit had gotten theirs.

And all the while this was going on, other church members were arriving and buying more. I had bought an extra 28 cases of fruit, and as of this writing, I have only 14 left unsold. We will take that to Sam’s Club Monday evening and try to sell the rest of it. I am quite confident that people will snap it up too, but that remains a matter of faith.

After all that was sorted out, Jonathan, David, Beth, and I headed over to Taco Bell and had some dinner. I was pretty tired by then. We had a nice time together though, and then we came on home. Penny was glad to see us (and very excited).

Tomorrow we have a Pathfinder meeting, and will (hopefully) have the rest of our customers come out then for their fruit. I will probably spend the morning raking the yard, as it needs it pretty desperately. The leaves are off the trees and the snow has not yet fallen. What better time for is there raking?