Resource Management: Lee County's Parks & Recreation Department Turns Donated Supplies into Service. (Great Parks: Lee County Department of Parks & Recreation)

Article excerpt

In one of the fastest-growing areas of the U.S., the Lee County, Fla., Department, of Parks & Recreation provides a variety of activities and programs for the community, their guests and visitors. Anchored by the two cities of Fort Myers and Cape Coral, Lee County records a year-round population of 440,000 residents, which swells by another 200,000 during the tourist season of September through April.

Lee County Department of Parks & Recreation strives to provide a variety of high-quality facilities and activities for its residents. The Department of Parks & Recreation features a variety of parks for public use, two sports complexes and 11 community centers. In addition, the department offers a wide variety of programs, such as summer camps, festivals and holiday parties, and it lends support to other programs, such as Special Olympics.

With a full schedule of special events and programs planned throughout the year, the Department of Parks & Recreation can't rely on government and donor allocations alone to fund such high-quality services. For supplemental resources, such as sporting equipment, craft supplies, party decorations and gifts, the department had to find another source to obtain these items cost effectively.

Cost-Effective Resource

In 1992, Lee County Department of Parks & Recreation learned of a not-for-profit resource called the National Association for the Exchange of Industrial Resources (NAEIR). NAEIR helps supplement tight budgets for nonprofit organizations via a unique membership program. NAEIR collects donations of new, overstock inventory from U.S. businesses, and then redistributes those goods to nonprofit organizations in need of toys, games and other activities for children, as well as office supplies, maintenance items, decorations and other amenities for children and adults. As a not-for-profit department of government, the Department of Parks & Recreation is eligible to receive free merchandise from NAEIR.

As a member of the NAEIR distribution network, Lee County Department of Parks & Recreation pays dues ranging from $475 to $575 per year. As a member, the department can shop from 200-page catalogs featuring between 2,500 and 3,000 available items, monthly fliers and an online shopping site, NAEIR e-xpress, at www.naeir. org. In addition, NAEIR assigns a staff member to the Department of Parks & Recreation.

Once all catalog requests have been received, NAEIR's computerized system allocates products to each member. Other than shipping and handling charges, the merchandise is free.

In order to take full advantage of the department's membership, Lee County staff member Bonnie Peters has worked out her own system for getting the most out of the NAEIR catalogs. Lee County often sends in long, diverse requests, and routinely exceeds the average allocation. In addition, Peters asks for items for programs months in advance of when they will be needed.

"I give the catalog to the different department heads to select what they need and in what quantities," she explains. "When I get the catalog back, I simply list the items on the request form and fax it in to NAEIR."

Membership Rewards

For more than 10 years, Lee County Department of Parks & Recreation has brought smiles to families with children in its community with the allocations received from NAEIR.

For starters, each year the department hosts more than 4,000 children at a variety of summer camps, including Camp Sunshine, for physically challenged children; Camp Excel, for hearing-impaired children; specialty camps to emphasize outdoor skills and nature awareness; as well as a variety of traditional camps for young children to teens. Crafting items and sporting equipment are coveted items to enhance the programs and activities at each of the summer camps. …