Donate Used Items: BFSA partners with Temporary Emergency Services for service project

Ethan Henry, Contributing Writer

When University of Alabama students move out of their on-campus housing, they might be surprised to see a donation box near their dorm. From a distance, these wooden boxes might not stand out until students see the initials “TES” printed across the front and side.

The boxes are the result of the Black Faculty and Staff Association’s partnership with Temporary Emergency Services, a local nonprofit organization that was founded in 1945 to help those in crisis situations. It provides basic items, shelter and utilities to people who need them following an emergency.

These containers will accept donations of gently-used goods of all kinds that students are no longer using, including shoes, clothing and bins.

“The drop off boxes will begin around the time of move-out. It’s probably going to have a varying schedule throughout the summer,” said Chad Jackson, the CEO of the BFSA Executive Board and the diversity, equity and inclusion chair for the college of continuing studies.  

The plan is to place boxes near the largest dorm buildings, such as Tutwiler and Presidential Village, as well as a couple of locations off-campus, and once they have been set up, all box locations will be posted  on the BFSA website and on the group’s social media platforms. 

“When we announce the times and the setup to build the temporary boxes, they can just check our website. We invite all students who care about this project to come out and help,” Jackson said. He added that students’ service hours will be cataloged as well.

TES was named the United Way of West Alabama 2020-21 Homer Butler Jr. Agency of the Year when it stayed open during the coronavirus pandemic in order to serve community needs by giving out hot meals and donating goods to those struggling through the winter.

“It started because Temporary Emergency Services has been trying to get on campus to receive the donations that students leave. And this, we feel, will be a great partnership if we can ever establish and get our footprint on campus, because we are one of the agencies that helps students when they are in need,” said Karen Thompson-Jackson, the executive director of the organization. “It’s a great partnership. We help people in the community. We also are here to help students fulfill their community service hours.”

Thompson-Jackson said BFSA “stepped up to the plate” by fulfilling this need.

“Sometimes it’s about relationships and it’s about connection to community. They were a great segue into the relationship, and – definitely – they are a great community partner,” Thompson-Jackson said.

Dequiala Kelly, the president of the BFSA ambassadors and a senior majoring in human development, said the purpose of the drop off box is to allow students to donate their things at the end of the year instead of throwing them away.

“In the partnership with the Tuscaloosa Emergency Services, I actually spoke with a woman and she said, ‘Usually, towards the end of the semester, students are always throwing out stuff whenever they’re coming out from their dorms.’ So we decided to do a partnership with them and actually create a drop-off box where students can, instead of throwing their stuff away, put it inside the box,” Kelly said. 

These items, rather than going to waste, will then be used to help those in need within the Tuscaloosa community. Of course, students should make sure that every donation is actually reusable.

“Whenever you’re donating things, just make sure it’s gently used things—nothing that’s broken or anything,” Kelly said.

Additionally, this project can become something meaningful to both those leading it and other students on campus.

“I really hope students can think about this project and think about the impact they’re going to have on people in the Tuscaloosa community,” Kelly said.

Kelly said the students of the BFSA have taken leadership in order to make this a recurring annual effort.

“I think in the future, I definitely want to get more students involved—especially within BFSA—to help lead this project,” Kelly said.

Because it wants to make this project permanent, the BFSA is asking anyone who can to donate $5 in order to purchase permanent donation boxes. With enough money, the containers don’t have to be reconstructed annually, and the project can be sustained year after year. The BFSA is also allowing corporate donors to put their logos on the side of the boxes.