When Washington National Guard Sgt. Renee Barton saw Gonzaga University students throwing out their dorm furniture and supplies, it gave her an idea.
“I know all the waste that happens when the students move out of the dorms,” she says.
Barton realized students could help veterans with their household items by donating them to local charity Newby-Ginnings and that she could work with Gonzaga’s ROTC Bulldog Battalion to help them do so. Their event, Gonzaga Give and Go, will be hosted at three on-campus locations on May 8, 10, 11 and 13.
Barton’s idea solved a problem that Bulldog Battalion has struggled to manage. Removing items left in the dorms “turned into a months-long labor-intensive project,” Gonzaga ROTC program office manager Marnie Rorholm says. Office staff used to carry students’ household items to expensive storage pods and sort them for delivery to different local charities who would each only accept some items.
Now, students will quickly drop off dorm furniture and supplies at convenient locations. Then, the National Guard will transport the donated items in its trailers or 5-ton cargo trucks and Newby-Ginnings will give the items to veterans.
“It takes the pressure off everyone in the university, Newby-Ginnings gets a lot of practically new things, and the National Guard gets exposure for students at Gonzaga that might need scholarships,” Rorholm says.
Newby-Ginnings takes its name from Spc. Nicholas Newby, the son of its founder Theresa Hart. Newby was killed by an IED on July 7, 2011, in Iraq. The last video he sent home shows soldiers joking and dancing in front of the camera alongside shots of armored transports with mounted machine guns rushing through the Baghdad night. It’s the work of a young man managing the difficulties of a strange place along with his friends.
“I ended up quitting my job as a registered nurse and I stayed home for about a year and a half trying to think about what I was gonna do with my new life without him,” Hart says.
Eventually, she decided to help veterans in Spokane by running Newby-Ginnings part-time from home. The work rapidly expanded until it became her full-time job. “I did not foresee this happening at all,” she says. Today, Newby-Ginnings has served thousands of veterans after five years in operation.
Hart says she thinks Gonzaga Give and Go is a fabulous idea: “So much usable, functional essential household items are being thrown away by these kids because they don’t know what to do with them.”
Receiving these items can benefit veterans by meeting their financial needs and by helping them “start off with a little bit of dignity,” Hart says.
For people visiting Newby-Ginnings, the generosity of donors can stir the hearts of veterans and their families.
“I’m gonna be honest with you and tell you that people cry in our shop every single day. Including me,” Hart says.
Duties like helping veterans and stocking food pantries are important priorities for the National Guard’s members, who are often local.
“Our first and foremost mission is to this community,” Barton says.