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Nonprofits have a new patron

Donation center to aid the aid groups

A Loudon Road property will soon be home to a donation center for nonprofit organizations and, eventually, a new retail building.

Organizer John Cusano said the site, now marked by a sign designating it as the future home of Donation Depot, will begin distributing donated office furniture and supplies to nonprofit groups in March.

Donation Depot is named and modeled after a program that operated years ago at the New Hampshire College in Hooksett. Cusano remembers going to New Hampshire College in the 1990s to pick up materials for nonprofit organizations. The college’s Donation Depot program collected miscellaneous donations and allowed representatives from nonprofit groups to visit one day a week and take as many items as they wished.

“I learned how things ran there and I thought it was awesome,” Cusano said.

The Loudon Road site, between Regal Cinemas and Toys R Us, is years away from construction of a new building, Cusano said. His brother, Tom Cusano, who owns the 296 Loudon Road property as well as The Stove Barn on Loudon Road, plans to construct a retail building on the site. The building would include storage space for the Donation Depot, likely in the basement. Plans for the retail building are far from final because the property includes wetlands, Cusano said, but he’s moving forward with his own plans for Donation Depot.

“I really don’t care what’s up above me, I want my bottom storage space,” Cusano said.

This weekend, Cusano plans to place portable storage units, donated by Concord-based Over the Top Shelters, on the site. He’ll use them to store donations when he begins collecting them next month.

Frank Eaton, who began the former Donation Depot at New Hampshire College and now works as director of purchasing and risk management at Southern New Hampshire University, said he has already donated old dormitory furniture from the university.

“I called him and asked if he wanted a truckload,” Eaton said.

Eaton said he first spoke with Cusano when Cusano called to ask if he could use the Donation Depot name, and has been in touch over the past year to ask for advice.

Eaton said he’s happy to see Cusano “resurrecting the Donation Depot program.” He said he began the Donation Depot when he was director of purchasing for New Hampshire College and received more donations than the college could use.

“There was a lot of stuff that we could use for the school and it ended up being that we got so much stuff that we had to come up with a plan as how to redistribute it again,” Eaton said.

Every Friday, representatives from schools and nonprofit organizations could visit a dormitory building that was repurposed as a warehouse and fill their cars with as much as they wanted, at no cost. As many as two tractor-trailers would arrive on campus every day filled with donations, Eaton said, and the building was staffed by volunteers.

The program ended after about seven years, Eaton said, when the college sold the Hooksett property and didn’t have space to continue Donation Depot.

Cusano said he didn’t forget about the service it provided to nonprofit groups, and he decided to start it again after retiring from his job at New Hampshire Hospital.

The new Donation Depot will begin on a smaller scale. Cusano will only accept office supplies and furniture, and will ask nonprofit organizations to become members, by paying an annual fee. For $50 per year, he said organizations can take $2,000 in donated items.

In the coming weeks, Cusano said he will begin seeking members and accepting donations. Donations may not be dropped off at the Loudon Road storage units; Cusano said donors can contact him to arrange for pick up, and he hopes to have collection bins at local businesses.

He plans to fill the garage-sized shelters with donations and add more as needed, but he isn’t worried about a lack of interest in the program. There’s a need to help non-profit groups, Cusano said, and the Donation Depot in Hooksett was always crowded with groups from New Hampshire and surrounding states.

“I’ve always been a recycler and this is definitely recycling,” he said.

He has scheduled March 23 as the opening date. After that, nonprofit groups can pick up office supplies every Saturday morning on Loudon Road, weather permitting. Eventually, he’ll have a permanent building for storage and pick up.

“I hope to be there the day he cuts the ribbon,” Eaton said.

For more information, visit thedonationdepot.org or call 226-2354.

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

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