Closed Marine base donates leftover items
When the El Toro Marine base in Orange County, Calif., announced that it would cease operations this year, county officials realized they had an opportunity to help their residents. Because the Marines were taking only “mission critical” items from the base to their next post, local officials were able to donate many leftover supplies on the base to 25 homeless service providers in the county.
The county spent two years collecting desks, tables, lamps, refrigerators, televisions and other items from barracks, hangars and office buildings on the 4,700-acre base. The 7,000-plus items, which were inspected prior to distribution, were organized into one warehouse.
“The base closure presented us with a tremendous opportunity to share some of the federal surplus with the less fortunate in Orange County,” says Courtney Wiercioch, manager of the El Toro Master Development Program, which coordinated the distribution.
The homeless service providers applied to participate in the program and were later assigned “shopping” appointments at the warehouse via lottery. They were allowed to take a total of 50 items per shopping trip but were limited to taking no more than 10 of one type of item and only one of the specialty items, such as computers and sofas. Each organization was required to sign an “Agreement for Transfer of Personal Property” with Orange County. The agreement stipulated that the property would be used by the organizations to support their programs for a minimum of one year. The property cannot be sold later.
Although the application and selection process took a year to complete, “it was all worth it,” says Gilbert Gonzales, executive director of the Homeless Intervention and Shelter House in Placentia. “We were a little concerned about the quality and the quantity of the items that would be available, but everyone was surprised to see the items we got.” Gonzales acquired bunk beds, lamps, oak wardrobe units and a computer on his shopping trip, all of which were in excellent condition, he says.
Margie Wakeham, executive director of Families Forward in Irvine, also acquired El Toro items. “The property we acquired through this program will help to increase the quality of our housing units and also the hope of our families,” she says. “And when we can increase the hope of our families, we can increase their ability to help themselves.”