by Donald B. Peterson
Fort Herkimer Amateur Radio Association President
New Vision Pioneers – Excelsior Chapter – Vice President 

What started as a regular walk thru tour of the massive Tractor Supply Warehouse facility in Frankfort, New York, by a group of firefighters from the Frankfort Volunteer Fire Department soon turned into one of the most significant community service projects I have ever had the pleasure of being a part of.

The facility covers over 900,000 square feet and has a ceiling height of almost 90 feet. Hundreds of rows of racks contain every item sold in their stores.

As we neared the end of our inspection, we noticed a large rack full of pallets filled with boxes of items clearly marked “Donations Without Locations.” We asked the meaning and were told that these products were no longer needed and could be donated to a “Not For Profit Agency” that could, in turn, donate the items to other agencies and individuals for their use.

There were stipulations that we were required to meet.  Items could not be donated to any agency or group that had a thrift store or that would sell the items for a profit. Items could not be returned to any Tractor Supply Facility for exchange or refund.

After clearing the idea with both executive boards of the Fort Herkimer Radio Association (FHARA) and the New Vision Pioneers, I then contact Tractor Supply, and we made a plan to take the items.  After discussions, we agreed it was best to rent a 26-foot U-Haul truck to pick up our items.

In all, over 20 pallets were loaded into the truck by the warehouse staff. This process took almost an hour and filled the truck from end to end, floor to ceiling.

Our next concern centered around a suitable location that would allow access for the truck and be a clean, dry and secure place to house our project. I called the Town of German Flatts Supervisor – Peter Rovazzi and explained the scope of the project, and he graciously allowed us to use the basement of the Town Park Hall. The facility has a concrete floor and is approximately 4000 square feet.

A call went out for assistance to unload, stack, sort, and count our items. Members of FHARA, Catholic Charities, Friends of The Town Park, and the Frankfort and Mohawk Fire Departments all came to help.

In all, we received about 3500 clothing items, all brand new, many on hangers or in plastic bags, work boots, cowboy boots, 1,700 pairs of slippers, and three pallets of toys. An estimate of the donation value is well over $45,000.

Next, we put out the word via our members to organizations explaining the rules and conditions.

In all, we were able to distribute items to nineteen agencies in Herkimer and Oneida Counties.

The following agencies assisted us with distribution:

Catholic Charities, St Joseph’s Church – Dolgeville, The Domestic Violence Shelter, The Runaway & Homeless Youth Center, The Recovery Center, Mohawk Fire Department, Town Of German Flatts Town Supervisor Rovazzi, Jordanville Monastery, The Refugee Center of Utica, The Utica Rescue Mission, The Friends Of The Town Of German Flatts Town Park, The Ilion-Frankfort-Mohawk Food Pantry’s, The Herkimer County Prevention Council, Fort Herkimer Amateur Radio Association, Frankfort Fire Department, The Mohawk Homestead, Folts Home, and River Valley Church – Providing needed assistance to over 2,850 people.

In all, 71 people spent approximately 2,655 hours ensuring this project was a complete success.

With the generosity of Tractor Supply, the dedication of all of the agencies involved, and the planning of the Leatherstocking Pioneers and FHARA, the project was completed. Thank you all for helping to make our vision a reality.

Photos by Andy McEvoy