NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The Elmer Back Gifting Center in Newport News is overflowing with products.
"There are things here everyone can use," said Clifton Wright, who runs the community redistribution warehouse with his wife, Beverly Zimmerman-Wright. "If you can imagine it, we probably have it."
But, ideally, the couple would rather the facility be empty.
"It does me no good for it to sit here," Wright said, "but there are people out there who can use it."
Last year, the couple took over the center, which is part of the global nonprofit Good360, from Calvin Culp and his wife Tanya “Susie” Culp. They passed away from COVID-19 just days apart in December 2021.
The center is named after Susie's late father, Elmer Back, who started the effort in the 1980s. Today, the gifting center continues to collect excess inventory from big-box companies like Walmart and Amazon.
"A lot of this may be returns. It could be product that did not sell," Zimmerman-Wright said. "So, by giving it to us, it saves them dollars."
The center then distributes the items to nonprofits, public schools, and faith-based groups that sign up for free membership.
"It allows them to get product... for pennies on the dollar," Zimmerman-Wright said. "So, they pay a very small admin fee [per product distribution], and it helps them to drive their missions by stretching those dollars and being able to reach more people."
Zimmeran-Wright said the greatest benefactors, however, are people in need.
"The more people that we help, the better our communities will be," Zimmeran-Wright said.
There are about 200 registered members right now. But Zimmerman-Wright said they lost touch with some of them during the pandemic.
"There's some nonprofits that thought that we weren't open," Zimmerman-Wright said. "And some people, their emails have changed. The phone numbers have changed."
And without more memberships and financial support, the center is in danger of shutting its doors.
"We don't get any federal funding. We don't get any state funding," Zimmerman-Wright said. "If they don't come here to get the stuff to pay the admin fees, then we don't have any money to pay [the] bills."
But the duo and their team are doing all they can to keep working for the community.
"Money is the key to making the business work, but money is not the key for me to work," Wright said.
"We committed our lives to service," Zimmerman-Wright said. "So, our commitment is different."
You can help the Elmer Back Gifting Center stay open. Make a donation toward the center's $150,000 fundraising goal.
Nonprofits, public schools, and faith-based groups are urged to sign up for free membership. Administrative fees will be paid during product distribution.