BelieveFest gets large donation of supplies from Amazon
HURON — Most of the time when a delivery van with ‘Amazon’ emblazoned on the side stops, the driver drops off a package or two.
On Friday, however, the entire load, comprised of dozens of boxes of school supplies were dropped off at Faith Alive Church, thanks to a large donation by the huge e-commerce company, via its Sioux Falls outlet.
“This is just such a wonderful, thoughtful donation,” said Ruth Manson, the organizer of BelieveFest, which is set for Aug. 12, at the church, beginning at 9 a.m.
BelieveFest is a volunteer program that gathers, apportions and hands out backpacks filled with necessary school supplies to local K-5 students, at no charge.
The story has its roots in the depth of winter, when Amazon Hub outreach manager April Jorgensen stopped in Huron. Amazon had just joined the Huron Chamber and Visitors Bureau and Jorgensen was on a trip to find possible new Hub partners in the area.
“Amazon Hub is really a unique opportunity for us to get customers’ orders to them more quickly, by partnering with community businesses,” said Nick Hoch, who works at the Sioux Falls distribution station WSD1 as part of the Hub system.
“We partner with local businesses in the community to be a site where orders can be dropped off, then the businesses themselves can make the delivery or have others do it,” he added. “The goal is to get orders into the hands of the consumer as quickly as we can.”
Hoch said that the Sioux Falls center sits in the center of a circle with an approximate 2 1/2 hour radius which serves as its service area.
Jorgensen began visiting with Wanda Barthleman, at the Chamber, and Barthelman shared the concept of BelieveFest with the Amazon employee. “This was back in January,” Barthleman said. “Then April contacted me again in April and told me what Amazon wanted to do to help with BelieveFest.”
What they wanted to do was donate needed school items, worth approximately $4,500. A small army of volunteers made quick work of unloading the van Friday morning and moved the supplies into the church’s community room.
“On Tuesday, as part of Day of Caring, we will have several folks - individually and also teams from different businesses - who will come and pack the items into backpacks, according to the appropriate grade level,” said Manson.
Next Friday, those loaded backpacks are put into boxes and a team of employees from Godfathers, led by manager Steve Clark, will load those large boxes into trailers in preparation for Saturday’s drive-through distribution.
“This is our eighth year,” Manson noted. “The first year, we filled about 250 backpacks and just went out an purchased items off the shelves to get what we needed.”
As the program has grown - an estimated 900 backpacks will be filled and handed out, partnerships with local businesses have been established to ensure that sufficient supplies are available.
“Amazon is a new partner this year and we are very grateful,” Barthelman said. “Also, earlier this year, we had wonderful support with donations of a portion of sales from both the Dairy Queen and Taco John’s restaurants in Huron.”
Cash donations from the various entities are used to purchase supplies, which are added to other donated supplies. This year’s total is expected to exceed $40,000.
“All of the dollars donated goes directly to purchase supplies,” Manson said. “The church here - where I am on staff - donates my time, along with things like stamps and envelopes for our mailings. Every little bit that is donated goes toward supplies for the kids.”
And the payoff is seen in the kids’ faces on Saturday morning.
“Some people are worried that they won’t be able to get supplies,” Manson said, “when the line is several blocks long.”
“But when they get to the front of the line and those kids are handed their backpack,” Barthelman chimed in, “their eyes just light up!”
Manson said that at times the final car happens to get the last bag of supplies, or those supplies end up in a grocery sack, but things always seem to work out.
Then, if this year is any indication, the volunteers will take a well-deserved breath and then begin working on next year’s BelieveFest.