Editor’s note: This story is part of our “50 Stories of People Helping People” series. As we celebrate Penske’s 50th anniversary in 2019, we are spotlighting associates every Friday who are making a difference in their communities.
A heatwave, which gripped parts of the nation last week, did more than just raise heat and humidity. It depleted the bottled water supply for many including the Cherry Street Mission in Toledo, Ohio.
The charity, which serves some of the Toledo area’s most vulnerable, soon put out a call for bottled water donations and Penske’s Perrysburg associates responded.
On Monday, two Penske trucks arrived at the mission, complete with more than nine pallets of water to the surprise of mission officials.
The donations were the result of a grassroots effort, which began last Wednesday on social media and spread neighbor-to-neighbor in Perrysburg, borne out of a heartfelt desire to serve.
“It was really a touching scene of the community here just reaching out and totally supporting the Cherry Street Mission,” said Bridget Schoen, Penske’s branch rental manager in Perrysburg, a Toledo suburb. “We didn’t know if we would get five cases or 100 cases, but it didn’t matter as long as we could make a difference.”
Penske associates recently began volunteering to serve meals at Cherry Street, so it was only fitting that they stepped in during the water shortage.
“This is just a glimpse into how Penske has been helping Cherry Street,” said Nikki Morey, communications director for the Cherry Street Mission. “It is the kind of lasting relationship that allows us to respond to the needs of people living in poverty.”
Extending a Helping Hand
The Cherry Street Mission has served those in need in the Toledo area for more than 70 years.
While the mission addresses the needs of the homeless community, the charitable organization’s focus has expanded beyond addressing basic needs such as food and shelter to providing services to help those in need emerge from poverty.
The Perrysburg associates were looking for an opportunity to give back to the community in a meaningful way. The associates were attracted to Cherry Street’s mission of empowerment and soon signed up to serve monthly at the mission.
“We really wanted to do more than just donate or send money. We wanted to volunteer our time as a way to get more of a personal connection out of it,” Schoen said.
It was during a scheduled volunteer experience last week that the associates heard about Cherry Street’s water shortage.
The mission’s goal of keeping a 30-day water supply on hand was threatened due to increased water consumption during the heatwave.
“Cherry Street has learned that we should have a 30-day supply of water for every person we serve, one gallon per day,” Morey said. “We serve 300-400 people a day, so in one day we would be going through 300-400 gallons of water, and that’s just for drinking.”
The heatwave complicated things.
“It just so happened that it was also very hot, so we were going through water faster than we had been so we were dipping into our reserves,” Morey said.
Tom Neuhaus, a customer service representative, was one of the Perrysburg associates volunteering at Cherry Street last week when he learned about the water shortage.
“We were coming back from Cherry Street and I said ‘It would be really nice if we could do something.’ Bridget thought it was a good idea,” Neuhaus said. Soon after, the water donation drive was born.
The location used social media posts and a few well-placed road signs to help spread the word about the need for donated bottled water.
Soon, the water began flowing.
“All of a sudden it was drop off after drop of. People were sharing information with churches. Complete strangers were coming to drop off case after case of water because they believed in the cause and, they believe in the organization,” Schoen said. “It was touching to see the community come together like that.”
In a little over four days, the location was able to collect nine pallets of water.
The donation will have a lasting impact on Cherry Street and the people it serves. “We can rest assured that should an emergency occur, we can respond to it,” Morey said of the donations.
For their part, Schoen and the Perrysburg associates were touched by the sense of joy and appreciation experienced by the Cherry Street staff because of their water collection drive.
“They were so wonderful and appreciative,” Schoen said. “I am so happy that we could make a small difference in the lives of the people who live in the Toledo community.”
By Bernie Mixon