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Donate Delaware prepares for a post-pandemic future

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A unified effort last spring to buy 61,000 pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) is leading to plans to buy other supplies in bulk for cash-strapped Delaware nonprofits and schools.

Richard Piendak (left) and Dave Tiberi (right) present Kent-Sussex Industries VP of Mission Advancement Ann Haggerty with 1,00 face masks during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in the fall of 2020. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DONATE DELAWARE

“COVID forced everyone to think outside the box. Donate Delaware grew quickly out of that experience,” co-founder Dave Tiberi said.

The organization is now discussing with United Way of Delaware how that bulk buying model might save money on office and school supplies, as well as technology like Chromebooks.

“Donate Delaware is evolving,” said Tierra Fair, the state United Way’s director of community engagement. “It’s finding their niche. It’s finding the gaps. It’ll uplift the community as a whole.”

The UWDE recently spent $100,000 for a million masks for schoolchildren.

“Nothing outside of PPE has been purchased yet,” Fair said. “We are working with partners to best position ourselves.”

“We realize that the systems, resources and experiences we developed over the last year have application to a much wider range of purchasing and logistics solutions,” Tiberi said.

Donate Delaware is run by Tiberi, president of security firm Emergency Response Protocol; co-founder Richard Piendak, who ran Richards Paving for almost 50 years; and Robert Andrzejewski, a veteran school administrator. All three have helped the underserved for decades.

They began by procuring and distributing PPE – as much as 60% off retail, Tiberi said – including face masks, gowns, gloves and sanitizer. They also organized a warehouse and volunteers to distribute it to those with needs.

They used $175,000 from the United Way’s federal CARES Act funding to buy the supplies, and additional CARES funding directed to the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services paid for staffing and transportation costs. Piendak paid the rent on the warehouse (7,500 square feet, and already too small). Andrzejewski and Tiberi paid for utilities and liability insurance.

They also received $50,000 from Bank of America, $50,000 from Highmark Delaware and other donations from WSFS and Capital One, Andrzejewski said. They’ve also connected with Chris Kenny, CEO of the Kenny Family ShopRites of Delaware.

Andrzejewski said the idea of bulk buying goes back to when he was superintendent of the Red Clay School District from 1997 to 2009. Other superintendents were interested, but the state didn’t buy in.

“It’s been talked about, but this is just talk now,” he said. “We’ve shown it can work.”

He just finished serving as interim president at the Charter School of Wilmington, and a parting gift was a breakdown of supply costs that will develop benchmarks for bulk buying.

Fair didn’t know if any other United Ways across the nation have coordinated such bulk-buying initiatives.

“We do know this is a unique partnership connecting the people that just wanted to help during the pandemic and an established brand like United Way,” she said. “We are so proud about connecting in this way.”

“Out of this crisis comes some good stuff,” Andrzejewski said. “We can save nonprofits and taxpayers significant dollars.”

United Way of Delaware is also getting more active in leading the way on issues that affect Delaware and the missions of its partner agencies. It recently revived its Delaware Racial Justice Collaborative, a push with 150 organizations to create “a more equitable Delaware,” Fair said.

United Way leaders have also spoken out on police cameras, police harassment, the minimum wage and requiring black history to be taught in public schools. That became law in June.

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