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Small hand up a long-lasting gesture

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Rob McLeod wants your stuff.

Any of it, and — if he can manage — all of it, whether it’s a 40-foot-wide steel door frame, leftover building supplies, furniture, or a thousand  purses you’re looking to dump off.

In a warehouse off Jarvis Avenue, McLeod and his organization Operation Share have been amassing these items and more, taking them to auction houses across southern Manitoba to earn money they can reinvest in the community.

"We’re looking for stuff," said McLeod, the group’s assistant director, and pastor at Faith Baptist Church, which runs the operation.

"Out with the old, in with the new. What happens to the stuff at the bottom of bargain bins? It goes somewhere."

In exchange for a charitable tax receipt, Operation Share is looking for big-ticket overstock inventory like tools, appliances and light-duty equipment it can sell for healthy profits.

The money goes to help people in Winnipeg with urgent repairs or to provide care and basic needs to those facing a time of personal struggle.

The idea was born when Faith Baptist senior pastor Dave Louden had a chance meeting with grief-stricken young mother with a broken door. The woman asked Louden why God let her baby die.

"He felt powerless to help," McLeod said.

"He wanted to know — what’s a good model to help people without asking for money, and that’s perpetual."

Louden recalled his previous business dealings, standing in warehouses filled with inventory and dead stock companies couldn’t move and the idea was soon born.

"How can people win on the business side and how can (their materials) be seen as useful to the community?" McLeod said, noting many businesses may not be aware they can write off old stock as gifts in kind.

The money has so far been used to help people like Brigette Westmacott, who, in June, needed help moving out of her North Kildonan home of the past 25 years. Problem was the garage was an unmapped labyrinth — her husband’s space she hadn’t sorted through since he died five years ago.

"It was something I didn’t (organize) so I didn’t have an understanding of how much was there," she said. "You could see there was a table, but the next thing you know there were 10 boxes behind it. It was truly a nightmare."

Operation Share’s team of volunteers, led by Joe Boulard, came in, taking about 6,000 pounds of garbage to the dump, and leaving with a collection of her husband’s collection of machines, tools, and glass display cases.

"The service is beyond measuring. You can’t measure it in money, it’s the most wonderful feeling that leaves you with a lot of hope," said Westmacott, who moved to Wolseley.

Boulard, who mans the organization’s Jarvis warehouse, called the work rewarding, and still talks to Westmacott on a weekly basis.

"It’s an everlasting friendship," he said.

Growing up and working alongside his dad as a carpenter in the North End, Boulard said he often came across people who didn’t have the means to pay for the work. Giving people a helping hand can be a long-lasting gesture, he said.

"This, for me, seemed like a good fit, to help people who don’t have the means to have something done," he said.

Some of the proceeds from Westmacott’s husband’s collection will help replace rotting countertops and plumbing for an elderly lady in the North End.

But McLeod has big dreams for the group — hoping it can grow big enough to hand out college and university scholarships.

"Right now, we’re small. It has the ability to be huge," he said.

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Twitter: @timesWPG

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