WINTERSVILLE - An area resident is hoping to develop a regional merchandise distribution center to serve the underprivileged in Jefferson, Hancock and Brooke counties.
Rich Delucca said he and a partner took over the Wheeling Project Sharing operation, serving Ohio, Marshall and Belmont counties, last November and now is ready to "bring another branch to Jefferson County."
But Delucca said he needs help in making it happen, noting that if they are successful, "we expect to attract and serve another 20-30 qualified agencies" serving those in need.
"I took it on privately to create a nonprofit organization to continue this," he said, adding that whether he can get it from drawing board to reality "depends on whether we get sponsors."
Project Sharing charters regional distribution centers, allowing agencies serving those in need access to merchandise ranging from food, beverages and clothing to home goods and building supplies, toys, recreational items, office supplies and personal care items.
To be chartered, applicants must qualify as a nonprofit agency, agree to distribute merchandise only to agencies - not individuals - that serve a specific population; agree to police those agencies to ensure the merchandise is not sold or traded; and choose recipient agencies, warehouses, off-loading, inventory control and distribution.
In a presentation to the Progress Alliance Partners Tuesday, Delucca said they'd retooled Wheeling's Project Sharing operation to ensure participating agencies are handling the merchandise appropriately.
"Prior to this transition, the operation and outreach was weak and understaffed," he wrote in a brief presentation distributed to members. "Since the majority of the work that is involved can be extremely labor-intensive, involving strong backs at a minimum, the number of volunteers available was inadequate to serve the project. The result was minimal shipments of merchandise and too few and sporadic distributions. In addition, the management of the eligible agencies receiving the merchandise was weak and as a result, way too many agencies supporting efforts outside the criteria were allowed to receive merchandise - some for resale as fundraising activities."
Since taking over the Wheeling operation, Delucca said they've orchestrated five shipments of merchandise with a total inventory value estimated to be around $55,000 to $60,000 and reached out to more than 40 eligible agencies with six distributions in eight months. Those 40 eligible agencies serve a total population of 23,000 individuals who meet the criteria.
Delucca said they're currently funding the project privately, adding that in order to continue even at a single site, "we will need to take on partners or sponsors and/or apply for some sort of grant funding." He figures they need roughly $22,000 to $24,000 per year to fund the two sites and said he hopes to be properly positioned "by the end of 2012 at the latest."