Messing up our stuff

The anatomy of a giveaway at CRC. Every month, nonprofit agencies from throughout Middle Tennessee come to our warehouse for the giveaway. Some of it involves every day items their clients can’t buy with food stamps – soap, shampoo, paper products, diapers….whatever we can get our hands on at a good price from our liquidation wholesaler. But it also involves fun stuff. Donations from major retailers that become a bingo prize, a volunteer gift, a present for someone who never gets one.

This is where Betsy just shines. A few days before the giveaway, she starts to arrange. I can unpack all the boxes from here to England, but I am not to arrange. I am merely to place the objects near Betsy so she can make a folding plastic table look like a display at Macy’s. And she does that. I hope Macy’s never finds out about her.

“Take a picture o f it,” she insists. And so I do. Because I know what’s coming next. “Take a picture of it before they mess it up.”

We love our partners. We truly do. But they mess up Betsy’s displays. Betsy is kind of like a food stylist, but with stuff. With food styling, nobody actually eats the display so it remains beautiful and pristine. But in the real live CRC world, the displays always have to get messed up or people wouldn’t actually get to take anything. This concept isn’t lost on Betsy. But it annoys her occasionally.

For two days, agencies come in waves to get stuff. Since the recession has gotten worse, they depend on us more and more. Everybody’s hurting. But coming to CRC is like a little free shopping trip to a very faux Macy’s. They get basic household necessities their clients need to maintain their dignity and hygiene. But they also get a fanciful rooster or turkey pins or Halloween costumes.

And at the end of two days, well, it’s a pretty ugly scene. Betsy’s displays have been wrecked. The 2,000 new shirts that we carefully folded and put in boxes according to size are fairly well gone. Our beautiful work is now decimated and our faux Macy’s looks like a yard sale at the end of the day. But that’s okay. That’s the way it should be. Because next month, we’ll get to do it all over again. That’s the charm of it. And, Betsy might say, the downside to what I have come to call obsessive display disorder. Because, once again, they will be messing up our stuff.



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