Bloomington organization donates leftover items from IU residence halls to local nonprofits
IU sophomore Motolani Arinoso remembers finding a pile of children’s toys as she sorted through items left over in residence halls in May.
The teddy bears and building blocks were just a few of the many items Arinoso helped collect this spring as a volunteer for Hoosier-to-Hoosier, a Bloomington organization dedicated to helping nonprofits.
This year, volunteers like Arinoso gathered a variety of items such as appliances, clothing, medical supplies and more. Hoosier-to-Hoosier's final 2022 report stated they collected 75 pairs of shoes, 90 microwaves and 25 crutches, among other materials.
Arinoso said she volunteered with Hoosier-to-Hoosier this year because she is passionate about helping people. She had previously been involved in volunteering, and started her own nonprofit called Kid in Need in her native country of Nigeria in 2020 which provides educational materials like textbooks, notebooks, backpacks, and stationery to children in poverty.
“I believe that if you’re doing well in life, you should just find a way to help others,” Arinoso said. ‘It’s not very time-consuming, but the effort you put into it goes a long way.”
Marjorie Hershey, co-chair of Hoosier-to-Hoosier and a professor in IU’s Department of Political Science, said Hoosier-to-Hoosier aims to be zero-waste. Many of the items left in the dorms would have ordinarily been shipped to landfills for disposal, she said, which can present health riskssuch as the release of methane gases and the destruction of natural habitats.
By reselling and donating items, Hoosier-to-Hoosier is able to both fulfill the needs of local organizations and help the environment.
“What’s the point of taking stuff that is usable and needed by people and trucking it to a landfill and dumping it?" Hershey said. "As people who live in a finite world, it’s important for us to realize that when we combine two needs – the need of some people to get rid of items they don’t want, with the need of other people of those very same items – it’s just a no-brainer to put them together.”
The organization began 13 years ago in 2009, when a group of IU staff realized there were many items left behind in residence halls each May that could be put to use.
The group — which now includes a mix of retired and present IU staff, IU students, members of local volunteer organizations and other community members — decided to collect the items and plan an annual sale for community members to purchase them . Items collected totaled 50 tons the first year. The sale was run each summer on the Saturday before fall classes began, with profits from each sale donated to environmental programs around Bloomington.
However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, holding a sale was no longer feasible due to social distancing requirements. Raising money was also harder for local nonprofits, Hershey said.
To help nonprofits in need and avoid large gatherings, Hoosier-to-Hoosier decided to shift their purpose. In May, the organization invited nonprofits to come to the dorms and take the items they needed. This was beneficial, Hershey said, because each nonprofit has different needs.
Volunteers sort through dorms, students donate .
As the 2021-2022 academic year ended, volunteers posted signage around the dorms, encouraging students to place what they weren’t taking with them for the summer into boxes. After students moved out, a group of about 15 volunteers including six IU students spent two weeks sorting through the dorms, placing items into categories nonprofits could find easily.
They sorted one residence hall each day. The next morning, nonprofits went to that hall to retrieve items, while the volunteers moved on. Hershey said the nonprofits could take as many items as they needed, free of charge.
Members of the public also had the opportunity to pick up items at a free yard “non-sale” May 27, 28 and 31.
In total, the group retrieved items from 14 residence centers and two sorority houses. Any leftover items were shipped to Goodwill. Hoosier-to-Hoosier’s final report stated that there were 14 truckloads of items taken to Goodwill this year.
Hershey — who runs her own nonprofit, Foster Closet — said the opportunity was beneficial for everyone involved.
“It really was a win-win,” Hershey said. “Nothing went to the landfill; all these tons of things were distributed to people who needed them. Local nonprofits got for free things that they needed that they couldn’t afford. The dorms got rid of allthese tons of things that they otherwise would’ve had to truck someplace.”
Local organizations benefit
This year, Hoosier-to-Hoosier distributed tons of items to 29 nonprofits.
Chris-Michael Morrison, director of advancement for Wheeler Mission Bloomington, estimated that the social service organization picked up about 250 items total from the dorms, filling almost three entire rooms at the shelter with donations. Wheeler Mission is a United Way of Monroe County Member Agency and provides resources to people experiencing homelessness and poverty in Indiana. It provides such services as emergency shelter, meals, clothing and toiletry distribution, as well as long-term support like residential programs, case management and job readiness training. There is a center for men in Bloomington and a center for men, women, and children in Indianapolis.
The items Wheeler Mission took will be utilized in multiple ways, Morrison said. Wheeler Mission is working to transition to a renovated emergency shelter in Bloomington, which will accommodate up to 84 men seeking immediate shelter. The items will be taken there, as well as placed within the private rooms of people participating in Wheeler Mission’s residential program. The items will also be donated to individuals moving on from the residential program.
“When we think about moving and all that entails for purchasing a lot of these items, it alleviates the burden for our guests to think of ‘What else do I need?’” Morrison said.
In June, the Hoosier-to-Hoosier team received a letter from Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County, an organization that helps build affordable housing. The letter said Habitat for Humanity received over 660 items, which they were able to sell to raise nearly $4,000.
“We are so very grateful for this partnership, and to see it grow such promising returns,” the letter said. “Both in providing funding for local, affordable housing, but also in helping divert these abandoned items from landfills.”
Arinoso, the student volunteer, said receiving the letter was rewarding because it showed the payoff of her work.
“It shows that the effort we put was for good,” she said.