Turf, Diapers, a Beginning and an Ending

(Note - all pictures are at the bottom of this post)

So, last fall, Dixie asked me to work on a project.   But she said she didn’t want to  raise the funds for it in the typical manner – because she was concerned that it would just divert funds from the general fund.

She wanted me to find or to quietly raise the funds to acquire artificial turf so that the playground for the big kids at Ft. Jacques (GLA’s new facility) wouldn’t be stone and rock but would be more kid friendly.

So I started asking the question.   I asked it of the Athletic Director at my kids school, I asked it of other people in the educational system that I know.   I asked it of a past customer of mine (from my banking days).   He’s the athletic director at Grand Rapids Christian High School.  (That’s school #1 – keep track)

His response? “Let me work on it.”    Apparently there is a newsletter that goes out by e-mail to all of the athletic directors in West Michigan.   He put a blurb in the newsletter about the need for donated artificial turf for an orphanage in Haiti.    Enter Northview Public Schools – (school #2).   About a year and a half ago, they had storm damage to their football stadium and got all new artificial turf.    Approximately half of the “old” turf was sitting in piles behind their stadium.   And when I say old, remember that artificial turf can have easily a 10 to 20 year “shelf life” even when used hard like football teams do.   We should get a lot of usage out of it at GLA.

So, back to school #1 – the AD at Grand Rapids Christian calls me, tells me that not only is Northview donating the turf, but Grand Rapids Christian is donating 7 pallets of the small rubber pellets that go under the turf.   We’ve got it – and it’s all donated.

Now to roll it, pack it and ship it.    We had a group of football players who had agreed to donate their time on the Thursday after Thanksgiving to straighten up and roll the turf so we could move it.   The plan was to locate warehouse space and move it there for the winter.

We were 48 hours late.   It started snowing on that Tuesday.  And it was from that Tuesday until the middle of April before the turf was clear of snow and dry enough that we could get it rolled and ready to go.

Yeah, the turf was that far away from the road.    So for the winter season, we collected diapers to go with it, while it sat and froze under the 2nd heaviest snowfall known to happen in this part of Michigan.

Why diapers?  Because with 65 kids in diapers at GLA, they go through a LOT of diapers.    Also, diapers are very expensive in Haiti and they are relatively light in weight.   And that’s a good thing because we’re currently estimating that the turf weighs in excess of 30,000 lbs.

So, I started asking the question – would you help the kids in Haiti by donating diapers?

And Legacy Christian School (School #3) answered the call.   One of the teachers at Legacy is a GLA Mom who brought her daughter home after the earthquake in 2010.  She planted the idea, she asked the question – and the kids at Legacy answered the call.   They collected over 5,000 diapers for GLA.   AND they collected over 5,000 diapers for a local pregnancy center to help struggling moms here in Michigan.   So, their effort helped both in Michigan and in Haiti.

And then Ann Arbor Christian School (School #4) stepped up and answered the call.   I had the privilege of going over to Ann Arbor,  talking with the kids and bringing a car full of diapers back to Grand Rapids.

And by then, my garage started looking rather full (see below)

And more and more people donated diapers.

And the UPS man started asking questions,  “What are you doing with all of these diapers?”

And then Christ the Redeemer School (School #5) in Okotoks Alberta decided to do a fundraiser for GLA – and designate it for diapers.

And more and more people donated diapers.

Since it was easier and cheaper to send funds rather than diapers, the school in Alberta decided to send funds and let us buy the diapers.

And more and more people donated diapers.

Once the funds were received, I started going to some of the bigger retail stores around and asking the question (and boy did I get strange looks):

“Hi, I’m working on behalf of an orphanage in Haiti and we had a school in Alberta donate a bunch of money to help us buy diapers to send down on a container in 2 weeks.   I’m wondering, if I spent ______ on diapers here, would you give me more for free?   And if so, how many more?”

If you don’t ask the question, the answer is always no.

And Target said yes.   Essentially, they gave us 20% more diapers for free.

And suddenly, my garage looked like this – over 500 boxes of diapers!

At the same time, the weather was drying out and we had to figure out how to get the turf ready to ship.    One of our local GLA adoptive dads is a banker (as opposed to me – a former banker) and he asked one of his customers if they would help.   They are.   Thank you Andy Egan!

They hauled the turf to their property, are unrolling it, cutting it to fit on a container and rolling it up again.   All because someone asked the question.

Here’s some pictures of the turf  in process……(See below)

We also to bring the pallets of pellets over to their place so that we can load it all at once.    Once again, when asked, they said, “No problem……”

This morning, we loaded 57,000 diapers, 2,400 lbs worth of rubber pellets (for underneath the turf), 13,000 sq. ft. of artificial turf (approximately) into a container and it's on its way down to Haiti.

No one person did this.

It took many many of us to do this.   Thank you for coming together to make a difference for the kids.

Thank you for helping the last project that I will do for GLA end up as a big success.   It means a lot to be able to finish this as we close out this chapter.   I look forward to what God has planned going forward and will continue to cherish the friendships that I've made, the relationships that have deepened and the opportunity to impact kids.   I hope you'll continue to pray for all kids all over the world who need help because they have no one who can love and care for them.

On behalf of the kids (and me), thank you,

Tom Vanderwell

1 comment (Add your own)

1. Theresa G wrote:
Thanks for the update! I have been "following" this project all winter...so glad to see the progress! Can't wait to see pics from Haiti when the children are playing on the turf!

Sat, May 10, 2014 @ 6:36 PM

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