By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
When Como resident Jennifer Victor-Larsen was working on her MBA at the University of St. Thomas a few years ago, she got an idea. “I knew I wanted to do a project in the realm of a social venture, but there was already so much great work being done in the Twin Cities. I started looking for gaps in services, and it turned out I didn’t have to look very far.”
Victor-Larsen had lost her grandmother and two aunts within a short period. Her mom ended up with many of their things: a whole attic full of high-quality stuff with sentimental value that was gathering dust.
Victor-Larsen said, “I started to think about where those things could go in the non-profit community; how could they be put to good use and not just add to the endless waste stream?”
“At the same time,” Victor-Larson said, “I was volunteering with two organizations that help victims of human trafficking—Brittany’s Place and Breaking Free. I started asking the staff of both organizations, ‘What things do you really need to help your clients regain their independence?’ It turned out that plenty of those things were in my mother’s attic and in my own home.”
Photo right: Como resident Jennifer Victor-Larsen is changing the name of the non-profit organization she started to www.donategoodstuff.org. For the time being, go to www.herosearch.org to learn where to donate household items in good condition to local non-profits that can use them. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)
Victor-Larsen found the service gap she had been looking for, and in 2014 created a non-profit she called “Hero Search.” “It took a year for me to build the database, which works in the same way as a volunteer-match database,” she said. “Someone with stuff to donate can search by non-profit type or by proximity to their home. I wanted HeroSearch.org to show how donated items would be used, so donors would know the impact they were making. I wanted it to be easy to search for nearby organizations so that drop-offs would be convenient for donors. The vision was to contribute to a less wasteful, more connected, and more generous world.”
Victor-Larsen is leaving her long career in the insurance industry on May 1 to dedicate herself fulltime to this work. She’s in the process of rebranding HeroSearch.org, and has changed the name to DonateGoodStuff.org. She’s redesigning her logo and has set the bar high for her growing non-profit organization: to become the #1 resource for people who have items to donate to charities nation-wide.
DonateGoodStuff.org is holding a 5K fundraiser at Como Lake on Sat., May 11. Day-of registration opens at the Como Lake Pavilion at 7:30am, and the run kicks off at 8:30am.
“The family-friendly event is open to everyone,” Victor-Larsen said, “and will be held rain or shine. We’re hoping that because it’s Mother’s Day weekend, families will walk or run the twice around the lake loop together.“ There’s no charge for children in strollers or wagons. Preregister online, and get a guaranteed t-shirt at www.hero.search.org. Two of the more than 100 non-profits that Hero Search partners with locally will be on-site that day—Minnesota Youth Link and Minnesota Pocket Pet Rescue.