Church Partnership with Hardware = Cleaning Buckets

Church Partnership with Hardware = Cleaning Buckets


By Neal Bowes
Written for the Youth Worker Collective

Giving teens a way to get their hands dirty in response to disasters like Hurricane Harvey is absolutely essential.  Far too often churches relegate the hands-on helping to the adults and miss the power of harnessing the passion of students.  

What do you do?  How do we help channel our students in our churches to make a difference in the lives of those recovering from this tragedy?  One word: UMCOR.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), always in a state of readiness, sprang into action, responding with cleaning kits – formerly known as “flood buckets” – stored in locations around the country. UMCOR will als distribute funding with 100 percent efficiency. (Every dollar you give goes directly to those in need; administrative costs come out of the UMC’s annual budget.) UMCOR will be doing case management work and organizing volunteer groups for years to come.

More cleaning kits will be needed than what we had on hand, and we need to replenish the supply to be prepared for other events, too. So, here’s how your church can get your whole community involved in an easy and practical way.

Each cleaning kit consists of 16 items: laundry detergent, household cleaner, dish soap, air freshener, insect repellent, a scrub brush, cleaning wipes, sponges, scouring pads, clothespins, clothesline, trash bags, dust masks, cleaning gloves, and work gloves, all packaged in a 5-gallon bucket. It’s a very practical kit, but it’s also a substantially long shopping list for somebody who will have to pay retail markup and tax.

So why not partner with your local hardware store? Let them know you’re not looking for a donation, but a partnership. Ask them to supply the items at their cost. Then appeal to members of your community to sponsor a bucket. Sponsoring is a lot easier than shopping, and with wholesale prices, you can almost buy two for the price of one. Your church brings the credibility of UMCOR, so people know their donation will be well used, and the hardware store gets some free advertising and the good will of the community.

It would be difficult for a transaction at the hardware store to be classified as a charitable contribution, but our church has the ability to process credit cards online. So, we have taken to the town’s Facebook page with a link to the form on our website. The local newspaper is running an article about it, and we are using every email list we can and encouraging people to talk it up in their other clubs and organizations, too. We’ll run the campaign to sponsor kits for three weeks and then order all the supplies from the hardware store, which we’ll pay for with our tax-exempt number.

The plan is for our youth groups to get together and assemble all the kits. That is, unless, we are overwhelmed with the number of sponsorships. In that case, we’ll partner with some scout troops and other organizations. We expect to ship our kits to the nearest hub by the end of the month. (If you don’t know the location of your nearest hub, check the “missions” section of the conference web site.)

 Here are a couple of bonus tips:

  • Accepting credit cards online can be set up pretty easily with PayPal or a similar service.
  • Our online form works great on a smartphone.
  • Our hardware store has created a display right up front with the bucket and all the supplies.
  • We are keeping track of the sponsorships and ordering in lots of 50 so that the hardware store doesn’t overwhelm their suppliers.
  • You will reach people and engage them in mission, even though they’ll never come to worship in your church.