Local Resident Spearheads Grassroots Donation Effort
June 01, 2020 5:00 AM
by Centre County Gazette, Karen Walker
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Optimists tell us to look for the good in every situation. But when the pandemic hit this spring, Michelle DiMidio did more than just look for something good — she decided to create it.

In April, she started the Alliance for G.O.O.D. (Giving Others Our Donation), a grassroots effort to help local families struggling with any sort of need related to the pandemic.

“Right after the quarantine started and it got really crazy, I was feeling like I was in a big funk. I just felt like I needed to do something to help, but I had no idea what that would look like,” she said.

Then, while listening to a podcast, she heard author Glennon Doyle say, “It is better to be done than to be perfect.”

“That was kind of hard for me because I like everything to be perfect. But I realized that my reluctance to help stemmed in part because I wanted to make sure it was the perfect way to help,” she said.

So she decided to stop mulling things over and to throw out some feelers to her contacts to see if she could find support for some of the ideas she had swirling around in her head.

As a long time volunteer for the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program, DiMidio had a lot of contacts to whom she could turn for feedback. For almost 10 years, she helped the State College Salvation Army fulfill Christmas wish lists for local families through her own network of friends and acquaintances.

Her efforts grew to the point that she was named the Salvation Army’s local “Volunteer of the Year” in 2013.

Recent structural changes to the Angel Tree program have drastically reduced the need for her services, she said, and she has missed having the opportunity to serve the community in this way, as have many of the people who helped her fulfill wishes each year.

So, she drafted an email to send to her contacts, in which she asked two questions: She asked if anyone knew of any local individuals or families who were struggling, and she asked if anyone would be willing to help fulfill their needs, once they were identified. She hit “send” with a little bit of uncertainty.

“I thought, if no one responds, then I’ll know this is something that is not going to work,” she said. “But then I was overwhelmed with responses. People really wanted to do something.”

Through her inquiry, she was referred to Housing Transitions, and the first project of the Alliance for G.O.O.D. was to put together goody boxes filled with donated items like grocery gift cards, cloth face masks, non-perishable snacks, notepads and pens and games.

DiMidio used the SignUp Genius app to set up a system by which volunteers could sign up to fulfill these specific needs. Once all of the items were collected, the goody boxes were delivered to Housing Transitions’ displaced homeless clients who were being housed in hotel rooms when shelters were forced to close due to social distancing recommendations.

DiMidio was also referred to several individual families who were struggling, and set up similar campaigns to fulfill their needs. Currently, the Alliance is working with Centre Safe to provide goody boxes to 100 community members — adults and children — who are survivors of domestic abuse. DiMidio said there are also plans in the works to help the Youth Service Bureau and TIDES.

DiMidio encourages both people in need and people who want to help to visit dimidio.wixsite.com/website. There, under the “contact” tab, you can send a message about specific needs to be filled, or you can subscribe to be put on an email list to learn about ways to help. She said the door is wide open as far as what kinds of needs the Alliance can fill — from services like shopping for an older couple to providing more of the goody boxes filled with specific tangible needs.

“I think it’s hard for people to ask for help, but I really hope people will reach out,” she said.

DiMidio said the recipients have expressed tremendous gratitude so far, and she is leaving the door open for the Alliance for G.O.O.D. to continue helping local residents in need, even after the pandemic ends.

“Anything is possible. I’m just taking this day by day,” she said. “There’s just a lot of good people out there. It’s really fulfilling and gratifying. I knew that already, but to just be around that, especially during this time, has been emotional, in a good way.”

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