An Insider’s Look at the Toilet Paper Distribution Day

Jessalyn WeddleAllied Insurance

As you may know, for the last 5 years, more than 600,000 rolls of TP have been collected through United Way’s Toilet Paper Drive benefiting hundreds of nonprofits throughout the Sacramento area.But have you ever wondered how these rolls get from the donation drop off at Cal Expo and into the hands of those local agencies?  Until I joined United Way Emerging Leaders and got to experience it for myself, I never knew what a humbling and rewarding event the Toilet Paper Distribution Day could be.And now I want to share my experience, so hopefully more Emerging Leaders can have the opportunity as well.

screen_shot_2013-08-12_at_4.11.56_pm.pngThe day kicked off at 7am at the Food Link warehouse with coffee and bagels…and then even more coffee! The first step for distribution is breaking down the hundreds of pallets into individual piles ready for vehicles to back in and load up.  As one of the receiving agency’s volunteers backed in, we would help them load up their vehicle, then replenish the pile of TP ready for the next.

And while that may not sound very exciting, it’s only a small part of the actual experience. The most rewarding part of the day was interacting with these agency representatives and volunteers. As we worked, we got to talk to them and learn about the amazing community services their organizations provide. Beyond that, watching these employees and recipients as they first saw the enormous stacks of toilet paper waiting for them, knowing how much this seemingly small item can make such a huge impact in their work and the lives of their constituents, is breathtaking.

screen_shot_2013-08-12_at_4.11.50_pm.pngMy favorite memory was when a woman pulled up in her small SUV and we wondered how the heck we were going to make the TP fit. After 20 minutes, we had all but two boxes crammed in, but there was no way she was leaving without every roll. So we tore open the boxes and the plastic, and then individually stuffed every single roll into any extra space we could find. She was surprised and excited as we fit the last few in, and as she left she hugged and thanked us repeatedly. As we watched her pull away, TP rolls pressed against all the windows, we knew those rolls were off to a place where they were so deserving and appreciative of the donations.  And this happened several times with the smaller agencies, which do not always have the means to come with a large van or box truck. It really demonstrated the need for this campaign.

screen_shot_2013-08-12_at_4.11.35_pm.pngOn average, each agency received the equivalent of $2,000 in TP, which allows them to put that money back into their programs and services.  Because of this, it truly is a day of smiles and hope, and we got to be a major part of that, each time we watched another vehicle pull away.

It was also a day of getting to know other Emerging Leaders. Throughout the day, about 20 Emerging Leaders enjoyed time together in between pickups barbequing, talking, playing backyard games, and even starting our own beanbag toss tournament.

At the end of the day, and thinking back to the 73 nonprofits we served, I realized there are so many agencies in our community worthy of our support and assistance. As much as I feel I made a difference for those agencies by participating in Distribution Day, they made just as much of an impact on me, and I can’t wait to be a part of it again next year!

Jessalyn Weddle is a Sr. Commercial Underwriter for Allied Insurance where community involvement is built into their business culture.  You can often find Jessalyn volunteering at various volunteer projects and serving on the Leadership Council of United Way Emerging Leaders. When Jessalyn is not working and volunteering, she enjoys weekend trips to Tahoe, Santa Cruz, and her home town, San Diego, to visit family and friends.