The Cornell house in Central Park is tidy, very tidy. But head up to the attic or out into the garage and you will need to side-step quite a few items.
Rows and rows of children’s puffy winter jackets, shiny black dress shoes, shirts with shimmering images of Hannah Montana and other kids’ favorites, packs of notebooks, crayons, backpacks and toys galore are packed — somehow still neatly — into every nook and cranny. Open a closet and there is bound to be more. And it’s all new, brand new.
Joe and “Bev” Cornell have been in the business of collecting and donating these items for more than 40 years now, with their very own nonprofit, 501(c)(3)-designated organization, Making a Difference for Grays Harbor Kids. Joe said Bev started the business with their children after they had found out about some others who needed some clothing nearby.
They decided on donating new clothes, instead of used.
“They get enough of that used stuff, we wanted to give them something special,” he said. While their three children are now grown and the duo had retired, they have continued — and expanded on — their efforts, now including school supplies, and anything and everything a child might need.
They receive around $600 per year from donations, which are collected at a number of places throughout Grays Harbor, including Humdinger in Hoquiam and the Crow’s Nest in Montesano.
Cornell said they spend a large amount of time searching out bargains, to make sure they have the most high-quality products to give to those in need.
“If it’s not good enough for my kids, it’s not gonna be good enough for theirs,” Cornell said. “It’s quality over quantity … and I don’t pay full price for nothing.”
Their main donation comes at Christmas time each year, but he says they routinely have school counselors or other individuals call them up when they have children who need certain items.
Cornell said they also receive large amounts of support from various organizations, stores and individuals who help them to collect items at large discounts, or even free. One such donor, who wishes to remain unnamed, will soon bring a truckload of school supplies to their door for their donation efforts.
“We’ve been doing this so long, they know that what we say we do, we do it,” said Cornell.
Despite a recent setback — Bev recently had a stroke — Cornell said they will continue on as a duo collecting and distributing the mass amounts of items.
He does not think he needs any extra help with distribution at this time, but is always appreciative of donations and insight on where a bargain on some children’s clothing or other items might be.
“We’ll keep doing it ‘till we’re in the grave,” said Cornell, who emphasizes the importance of the community’s efforts in allowing them to continue. “Without their support we couldn’t do it anymore,” he said.