Supply Chain Now Episode 492

“… to say this as a transformation for us [Empty Stocking Fund] is absolutely, I think, a fair characterization to say, it’s just been incredible. It’s taken a village. It’s taken a lot of people, a lot of volunteers, a lot of skills-based volunteering as well. And, you know, just a lot of willingness on the part of our team to say again, you know, we have no choice. This is our time to do what we do when we are needed most.”

-Manda Hunt, Executive Director, The Empty Stocking Fund

Each year The Empty Stocking Fund brings JOY to the lives of 50,000 disadvantaged children throughout the Atlanta metro area. With COVID-19 impacting the 2020 Holiday season, it was time for a rapid transformation of the Santa Village Supply Chain. In this episode of TEKTOK, powered by Supply Chain Now, host Karin Bursa interviews Manda Hunt, the Executive Director of The Empty Stocking Fund. Hear how The Empty Stocking Fund transformed from a brick and mortar model with a single point of gift selection and distribution to an online virtual gift selection and a network of approximately 30 distribution points. The new model will ensure 50,000 children receive holiday JOY while keeping eligible families and volunteers safe. The rapid transformation rolled out in just six months and impacted every aspect of the nearly 100-year old charity including: new physical distribution center, inventory management software, online gift selection, pick-pack-ship process. And if that’s not enough, they also rolled out a new back to school program for school supplies during the midst of COVID-19. Listen up for some inspiration and motivation. Ho! Ho! Ho!

Intro (00:01):

Welcome to TEKTOK digital supply chain podcast, where we will help you eliminate the noise and focus on the information and inspiration that you need to transform your business impact supply chain success and enable you to replace risky inventory with valuable insights. Join your TEKTOK host Karin Bursa, the 2020 Supply Chain Pro to Know of the Year with more than 25 years of supply chain and technology expertise, and the scars to prove it, Karin has the heart of a teacher and has helped nearly 1000 customers transform their businesses and tell their success stories. Join the conversation, share your insights and learn how to harness technology innovations to drive tangible business results. Buckle up it’s time for TEKTOK powered by Supply Chain Now.

Karin Bursa (01:05):

Well welcome supply chain movers and shakers! I’m Karin Bursa, your host for TEKTOK, the digital supply chain podcast. Thanks for tuning in today. On this episode, we have a really interesting story about supply chain transformation. I am excited to be joined today by Manda Hunt, the executive director of The Empty Stocking Fund. If you’re not familiar with The Empty Stocking Fund, it is an organization that brings joy to the lives of disadvantaged children throughout the Atlanta Metro area. And they have been doing this for nearly a hundred years. And as you’ll hear in just a few moments, it’s not just a labor of love, but it is an amazing supply chain story that impacts over 40,000 children and families in the Metro Atlanta area. It’s a story that for 2020 includes a new facility, the acquisition of a new outreach program, new software, new processes, and Oh Yeah, by the way, do all of this in the midst of COVID-19.

Karin Bursa (02:06):

So in just a moment, you’re going to hear how The Empty Stocking Fund faced those challenges and didn’t just pivot, but transformed their model in serving the community. So get ready.


A quick programming note before we get started, if you enjoy today’s conversation, be sure to like share and subscribe. Look for us wherever you get your podcasts and just search for TEKTOK. That’s T E K T O K brought to you by Supply Chain Now.

The Empty Stocking Fund has been serving children and their families for nearly one hundred years. And as 2020 got underway, it was an exciting time, lots of new opportunities, lots of new programs, the acquisition and the new school supply program, the move to a new facility, the opportunity to look at our distribution process and really change the way what traditionally a brick and mortar operation transformed into both an e-commerce or a multichannel outreach, but then COVID-19 hit and we had to look at everything, transforming people, process technology, data, all of the elements that many of you face each and every day, as you look at making massive business transformations, And, oh by the way, they did this in less than six months.

Karin Bursa (03:25):

So let’s bring in our featured guest Manda Hunt, the executive director of The Empty Stocking Fund Manda. How are you today?

Manda Hunt (03:34):

I’m doing good, thank you so much for having me today and for giving us an opportunity to talk about our organization in a way I never really thought we would!

Karin Bursa (03:41):

Yeah, it’s to think about what you do to serve children in terms of supply chain. But really it is a very, very smart, strong supply chain story. It gives us the opportunity to not only serve a community at wholesale prices, but to do it in an interesting and efficient way. But before we jump into that Manda, tell us just a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with The Empty Stocking Fund to start with.

Manda Hunt (04:06):

Well, I actually got here very accidentally. I never really thought I would be working for a nonprofit organization when I was young and starting out in my career. My background is in PR and marketing and I was working with an agency that was asked for some fundraising help by The Empty Stocking Fund. And because I was relatively new to that agency and I thought it’d be a great way for me to kind of ramp up and get more experience, I jumped in. And I’ve always had a pretty soft spot for kids and especially disadvantaged children. So I thought it was a perfect fit. And so I jumped right in and over the years, I remained involved after I saw the operation firsthand. I was helping with some of the work long before the holidays. And so, when I actually got to see it firsthand, I was just absolutely overwhelmed.

Manda Hunt (04:54):

I couldn’t believe the scale of the operation, the efficiency, just the, the impact that it was having in our community. And so you could say, I was hooked. It was love at first sight, if you will. I remained involved in different ways over the years. And then in about 2010, the existing executive director said that he was looking to retire and asked if I’d be interested in taking over the position. And I thought it would be a great opportunity and a great fit for me. I have a pretty entrepreneurial personality and like a lot of diversity in my day job. And this certainly has it! Some days I’m talking to potential large foundation sponsors, some days I’m in the warehouse, cutting open boxes. Some days I’m driving a forklift. It’s just all over the place. So, I really enjoy that aspect of the work. I think it’s just a really feel very privileged to be able to do something I enjoy and am extremely passionate about.

Karin Bursa (05:46):

Absolutely. And for our audience, I’ve seen Manda opening boxes and driving forklifts! She’s, the real deal. I’ve also seen her in front of a room of business executives and she has no problem holding her own in either setting. So, on a personal note, I became familiar with The Empty Stocking Fund in 2008. And my family and I have had the opportunity to volunteer at Santa’s Village and get hands-on experience. And, I’ll tell you, that volunteer opportunity always fills my heart and sometimes brings a fresh tear to my eye as well. Um, when you see the gratitude in the faces of the guardians and parents who are selecting the gifts for their children – it’s special. I also had the opportunity to lead a Sponsor a Child fundraising initiative and our volunteers to serve at The Empty Stocking Fund for about 10 years in my role with Logility.

Karin Bursa (06:41):

I’d like to recommend volunteering to our listeners in the metro Atlanta area. If they’re looking for a community engagement opportunity for their businesses and creating an opportunity to give back, The Empty Stocking Fund is a great way to do it. I know we look forward to it every year and there’s a supply chain story around it too. So it’s always been a great kind of teaching opportunity for my family to understand a little more about what it is I do and where I’ve dedicated my career for so many years. It’s also a great way to help families feel empowered, to help them feel like in a tangible way that others really care about them and care about, just bring a little joy into their households. Manda, you led a strategic initiative a couple of years ago to think about how to take this process that’s been honed over the years, or that had been honed for over one hundred years with The Empty Stocking Fund and use it to serve the community in some new and different ways. So tell us about the expansion into a back to school program.

Manda Hunt (07:56):

As you mentioned, The Empty Stocking Funds nearly a hundred years old for the first 92 years of that, I suppose. Um, we were really a one trick pony. We focused on the holidays. We were very good at that and had a very efficient operation. Um, we served as many as 54,000 children in a single year, typically only in the month of December serving between 1500 and 3000 children a day. And that was with only two full-time staff members. So it was a very, very busy time of year for us, but we were not fully leveraging our resources the balance of the year. We never had a home [location] of our own. We have been bouncing around locations and at the mercy of very kind Atlanta and building owners throughout the community to let us use their facilities for a few months a year.

Manda Hunt (08:49):

And, and there were a lot of challenges in that. And I think it certainly, um, put some limitations on us. So we started to think about what we wanted to be when we grew up. We always laugh at that since the organization is nearly a hundred years old. But, we realized that if you’re not growing, you’re dying and that we had a lot more opportunity to serve the community. So we started looking at what our options were and when we looked at what we did well and our core competency, it was really around our ability to acquire products on the wholesale market at incredibly good prices, competitive pricing, and then being able to distribute it directly to the families in need. So when we thought about, gosh, you know, what else could we do that, that could really relate to any product right now?

Manda Hunt (09:34):

It was just the holidays or at that time it was just the holidays. And so we started to realize that “need” exists for these families year round. It’s not just during the holidays, there’s lots of other needs, daily need. We obviously can’t fix everything, but we said, gosh, we can take off another little bit here. So we started to think about what else we could do. And a very logical fit, both from the seasonality of it, as well as just another need for children was school supplies and the back to school season. And what we saw was there’s so many programs throughout the Metro area that are very fragmented and candidly inefficient, where they’re doing different supply drives, and somebody’s having to drive around, pick these products up, sort through them, figure out how to distribute them.

Manda Hunt (10:20):

And so in doing that, they’re not as they’re not able to serve as many children as I think they, they could, if we all worked together. So we started to look at our model and how we might be able to provide school supplies directly to children, as well as to some of these other organizations kind of serving as a partner to them and supporting their drives. And at the same time, coincidentally, we were actually operating our holiday gift distribution out of a facility that was owned by the Atlanta Community Food Bank. They were our benevolent landlord at the time. And they were in their own strategic journey trying to really focus on food security and food distribution. And they were really looking at some programs that over the years, the food bank had either just kind of acquired or had kind of grown in a corner somewhere because somebody donated something and they just took it on and began distributing those goods.

Manda Hunt (11:16):

And the Atlanta Community Food Bank happen to have a pretty significant school supply distribution program. And it just wasn’t germane to their core business. It was something that they knew was a need that needed to be addressed by the community. So they wanted to ensure that it found a good home. So, we started talking and, um, the two organizations applied for a grant together that we received to evaluate the possibility of The Empty Stocking Fund, taking that school supply program over and what that would look like and did it make sense? And it wasn’t the best thing for the community and for both organizations, it was the first part of what could have been a four-part process, um, is what we received the grant funding. But because both parties were so supportive, everybody knew it just made perfect sense.

Manda Hunt (12:07):

We actually were able to complete three of the four parts with that one grant. So it was a very successful process, a very quick process. Once we figured out it was something that both organizations wanted to do. And so in July of 2019, we officially took that program over, which was of course, right in the beginning of back to school season that year. So we hit the ground running and I’m proud to say we were able to distribute school supplies to about 3,700 teachers throughout the Metro Atlanta teachers at Title One schools, and then also directly to about 10,000 students. So we estimate our total reach for that program in our first year was nearly one hundred thousand [100,000] children. So we’re pretty proud of that! And then of course, we moved into our holiday gift distribution shortly thereafter. So the timing worked really well.

Karin Bursa (12:59):

Congratulations! I mean, that’s a tremendous story in a very quick turnaround. And then with things rolling into the 2020 calendar year, you end the holiday season of 2019. At that time, we knew that we were looking or seeking a permanent home or a semi-permanent home for the operation. And, and that was going to be a big part of the coming months as we prepared for back to school times, et cetera. But then the distribution model had to change quickly given all of the concerns around COVID-19 and how could we help students as they went back to school for the 2020 school year. Um, it really gave you an opportunity to think through what are we going to do for the holiday season as well. So tell us a little bit about how the 2020 back to school program worked just briefly and then we’ll dive into the transformation for the holiday season as well.

Manda Hunt (13:57):

Yeah, well, as you said, when we started 2020, we had all sorts of lofty ambitions and we were really focused and working hard on integrating operations and trying to, you know, do things like an inventory management system for the old program that came in, merging the two operations was pretty significant. So we were focused on that as well as addressing a known funding gap that we had because the program that we acquire didn’t come with any consistent funding. So, we were really ready to hit the road and solve those challenges and then COVID happened. So yes, that changed a lot of things for us. And one of the first things that I quickly realized having been involved with the holiday gift distribution for so many years, was that no matter what this thing turned into, there was no way we were going to be able to operate Santa’s Village the way we had in the past. Historically, we would serve as many as 54,000 children in a single month, mostly in the month of December, really in only about 18 days. So that’s as many as 3000 children a day, and we needed anywhere from 40 to 60 volunteers at a time to accomplish that. So we knew that we would not be able to do that this year.

Karin Bursa (15:13):

Yeah. And for our listeners think of that in terms of a brick and mortar operations, right. One central location as both the shopping and the distribution point during that 18 day, one month, really two months when we think about actually, organizing and opening the operations. But as, as Manda said, the labor predominantly was volunteer labor. So you’ve got to have a really strong process in place in order to move that volume of goods and serve the community in just 18 days. But that was one distribution point. And basically the customers, if you will, or the community, would come to Santa’s Village. So here we are Manda, approaching holiday season 2020, and it looks a little different in light of COVID-19. So let’s start at the beginning, um, instead of being able to select gifts in person, how will that happen this year?

Manda Hunt (16:10):

Yeah, so that was one of the first things we knew. We knew that, um, we had to solve for the shopping challenge because that was something that is really important to our organization. And one of our key points of differentiation is that we don’t decide what a six year old girl should get. We don’t pick the gifts and bag them up and give them to the parent or take them to their home and give them to the child. We create an opportunity and experience where the parent/guardian can choose the gifts that they want to give their children and give them to the children how and when they choose. So that’s a really important piece of what we do. So, I always say, our impact goes far beyond the 30, 40, 50,000 children who received gifts each year, but really also impacts their parents and guardians lives as well. So, we knew that that was something that, um, that couldn’t go away. Uh, are we really wanted to work hard for it, not to which meant we had to create some sort of online shopping model for them, some sort of online store. Now, mind you, I think we needed to take a step back. And again, I kind of referenced the inventory management system and tell you that prior to this, all of our holiday gifts, shopping inventory management, purchasing, et cetera, had been managed in a very sophisticated Excel file.

Manda Hunt (17:28):

That’s right. Quite comical. I became the pivot table queen. And while I’m pretty decent at Excel, it was definitely not ideal. So, we knew that we had to solve for that as well. We didn’t have anything in place that would allow this organization to scale to what we needed to do and accomplish what we needed to. So there were a lot of challenges ahead of us. We knew that the inventory piece was one and then creating some sort of online shopping experience. So I am incredibly proud to say and exhausted to say that we did that. We actually went live with our online shopping experience in early October. And, um, you know, we’ve had some kinks to iron out, but, it’s not as beautiful and fantastic as Amazon’s platform, but it’s pretty functional and working great. And so we’re very excited about that. We have already had nearly 10,000 children registered, and that’s with very little promotion. Again, we were kind of doing a soft opening and seeing, making sure everything was working properly. So we got the shopping challenge solved.

Karin Bursa (18:40):

Well, congratulations on that. So you basically rolled out an e-commerce experience or a gift selection experience online that is very specific for each child, right? Each child, each age group of children, gender selections, et cetera, to make sure that there’s an assortment available, that they get the opportunity to choose from. Now, Manda, we create, if you will, a pick list or a pick order for each child. And so our, our audience will completely understand that they’re thinking in terms of their warehouse and distribution operations and how to pick, pack and distribute those goods in this new COVID environment. Right? So, we used to have one physical Santa’s Village location for selection and distribution. It was easier, right? And the people were there and they would carry their bag of gifts away with them after the experience had concluded. Now it’s a little different. What’s that going to look like for 2020?

Manda Hunt (19:37):

Yeah. Well, I think it’s important to note, too, that we, in the midst of all this, we ended up finding a long-term facility and had to relocate everything our entire operation in the month of July, and which was right before the COVID back to school season was going to be, and a very, very big challenge. So, and we didn’t really have time to even get the racking installed in the warehouse. We were just shoving stuff in there. And so we had some major challenges and just getting ready for it all. When we started to think about, what would this look like? And can we serve, even if we started in November doing distributions, how could we serve that many children from one facility? And we have been brainstorming every option under the sun, everything from, you know, the model where you pull into a parking spot and send a text and say, I’m here.

Manda Hunt (20:32):

And somebody runs out with your, with your goods. We obviously, you know, decided, especially as, you know, paying attention to what the COVID guidelines were and keeping our staff and volunteers safe because without, without our volunteers, none of this happened. So we have make sure the environment is such that they feel incredibly protected. And, we made the decision that it was not going to be possible to have our recipients come into the facility at all for 2020. So we then started to really think through, gosh, what’s this gonna look like?  Do we have to rent a hall somewhere? Do we have to,  you know, what can we do? But what we had found in the school supply distribution that we did this year, which obviously was very different in the Metro Atlanta area, uh, the overwhelming majority of school districts did not go back to school in person.

Manda Hunt (21:23):

So the teacher supply kits were somewhat irrelevant. There was no way to distribute to the teachers because they weren’t seeing and interacting with their child where their students in person. So we had to do a major shift there. And, I need to point out that this was very late breaking news. We were staying very informed. We were staying very close touch with the school districts as they were, uh, trying to make these decisions. And we kind of had a sense which direction it was going to go, but we were all kind of sitting and waiting, which, which do we start to pack and how are we going to handle this at a time when I think volunteer concerns were at their highest, um, people were really, we had just come out of the shelter in place order people were very, very concerned. And if you didn’t have to go out and be around other people, you don’t know you’re not going to.

Manda Hunt (22:13):

So it was a tough, tough couple of months there with the move and serving back to school. And then trying to quickly shift from teacher kits, which was a much more efficient distribution to, um, student kits. And we had already started building this registration and shopping platform for the holiday gift distribution and were able to test some of that functionality by letting parents, um, register their children for school supplies. And unbeknownst to us, we were doing this really as a benefit to the organization to give us this test drive opportunity. It turned out to be incredibly invaluable because as things changed with the school districts and COVID safety guidelines on a daily basis, we were able to quickly pivot do whatever needed to get done, and create packs for these kids. However they needed to get done, communicate with the recipients whether it’s, you know, by text or email.

Manda Hunt (23:14):

And at the end of the day, we were able to distribute over 40,000 of these back to school kits for 2020. The only way we were able to do that without a single family that came directly to us for these kits. We did it through partnerships, largely through the school districts directly and as well as some other, what I call hyper-local nonprofits that are really in the community. Groups that are serving the kids in their block and they were able to take the product and they can get it physically to those children. So when we did that, we said, gosh, you know, this is a really, really tough challenge. And if we didn’t have these partners, we couldn’t have done it.

We’re now facing that same challenge for the holidays on a similar scale in terms of the number of children served, but a much greater scale, because we’re talking about much more complex orders. If you will, a school supply kit was a school supply kit was a school supply kit. You get pencils, pens, crayons, paper, et cetera. They were pretty standard. But now, we’re talking about filling orders for children up to 40,000 to 50,000 children and getting those done. So we said, we need to look at this partnership model again, and really think about how that might work for the holidays.

Karin Bursa (24:33):

And I think that’s important. I want to come back to that in just a second for our audience. I’m going to put this in context a little bit, as you (our audience) think about your businesses. So, first of all, The Empty Stocking Fund has made the transition from a brick and mortar retail/distribution model to an e-commerce model. Secondly, we’re really looking at completely changing the distribution network. So instead of just acquiring the toys during the purchases, having those available and then fulfilling the orders and handing them over to the family member at that single retail/distribution center. Now, we’ve got to think about moving another distribution point or another node in the network, out into the communities. So tell us Manda, what’s the plan? How will we move those goods? The family member [parent/guardian] will select the items online by child, and we will fulfill those orders in the distribution center. Then how do we get them to the families? How do we get the gifts out to the kids? What happens next?

Manda Hunt (25:34):

Well, once we realized, you know, just running some numbers and coming up with every possible creative theory that we could about having a single distribution location and realized that just wasn’t possible, we started to think about, okay, how do we do this? Do we partner with a variety of different organizations across the community and, and the difficulties of managing that? I think it’s important to note that we are a four person staff team and we also have some other pretty significant responsibilities around fundraising. Um, you know, the administrative side, finance, paying the bills, all that kind of stuff. So there’s a lot

Karin Bursa (26:10):

Four staff team members. So four people, 40,000 kids. I mean, I don’t see what the problem is when you have 10,000 kids per person, that seems completely doable in the matter of just a couple of weeks. Yikes! So tell us what you did. How have you been able to get connected with some community partners?

Manda Hunt (26:31):

Once we started thinking about it, then as we had calls and meetings with other organizations and candidly, the way that our success story came about was we were talking to an organization about followership of the program and whether they would be involved, uh, involved. They are a company that actually provides their Medicaid benefit provider. So basically their clients are our clients. And so there’s a lot of synergy there and we were just sharing with them, kind of look, well, you know, we’ve, we’ve got this shopping park just about solved and we’re, we’re trying to figure out the rest. And she said, you know, I actually sit on the board of directors for the YMCA of greater Atlanta, and we might have an opportunity there. So she made the introduction and I am absolutely thrilled to say that theYMCA was all on board. They’re so excited!

Manda Hunt (27:26):

The YMCA has as many as 30 facilities all over Metro Atlanta and a much broader geography too, than we would have served. So some of the outlying counties, you know, we typically focused on a nine County area based on proximity because it just, there’s a point where the value to the client just wasn’t there. If they’re having to travel into downtown Atlanta from afar, there’s, there’s a point where it just doesn’t make sense. So now, with YMCA as a partner, we can expand our reach and we can take what was a single location distributing to 40,000 or 50,000 children, and split it up across 25 to 30 locations, which makes it much more safe. And it also gives us an ability to potentially scale and do more from our location, because we won’t be actually doing distributions as well. And it’s a benefit to the client because it’s now closer to them.

Manda Hunt (28:19):

They’re not having to come from the far corners of the Metro Atlanta area to our location. They can go to a much more conveniently located location. So I’m not going to lie, it’s been a brutal, brutal few months for us and exhausting and challenging, but also extremely rewarding to be able to get to this point and be able to say that at the time, when our clients needed us most, there was nothing that was going to stop us from making it happen and thank you to the YMCA partnership. Working with the YMCA as well, uh, our organization could make sense for the long-term too. So this could be one of those COVID silver linings, if you will. Um, that really has kind of forced us to do some things that really probably are fantastic for the organization and the community.

Karin Bursa (29:11):

Absolutely. Um, and it is exciting. It’s exciting to, partner with a group like the YMCA which certainly has been serving the Atlanta community or the members in Georgia for nearly a hundred years as well.

So again, context for our supply chain listeners. So The Empty Stocking Fund made a huge move to an e-commerce platform versus brick and mortar, but it also changes the distribution model to what we would refer to as BOPUS or buy online, pick up in store. So in a similar fashion, the clients here will select online and then they’ll pick up at a central distribution point. And those distribution points will be in partnership with the YMCA. And there’ll be based off of zip codes Manda, is that correct? That is correct. So hopefully that the access and the opportunity to receive their gift selections, which have been picked, packed, and bagged ready for them to pick up with appropriate labeling and QR code. So all the latest from a technology perspective. All that has come together in less than six months, is that right?

Manda Hunt (30:22):

That’s right. And I’m not going to lie. We’re still working on some of those logistics and they, you know, we’ve got the ordering part and the picking and the packing, and we are still on, you know, as we’re going along, we’re still working on some of the refinement to make sure that everything is as clean as possible and as simple as possible for our distribution partners, but it is an ongoing project. This was a major undertaking. I think it’s also important to note that prior to all of this, our entire holiday gift distribution was managed with a circa 2003 access database. It was not fantastic. It cobbled along and  did the job. It did what we needed it to do, but it gave us zero inventory visibility. It gave us zero ability to forecast and really analyze anything that was happening with the operation.

Manda Hunt (31:09):

But it got us through the distribution and it tracked the orders. It created pick tickets. So this is a to say this as a transformation for us is absolutely, I think, a fair characterization to say, it’s just been incredible. It’s taken a village. It’s taken a lot of people, a lot of volunteers, a lot of skills-based volunteering as well. And, you know, just a lot of willingness on the part of our team to say again, you know, we have no choice. This is our time to do what we do when we are needed most

Karin Bursa (31:44):

Absolutely. And congratulations, once again, on a full-blown transformation! I know that we’ll still learn some things in the upcoming weeks, as we actually put this into action. You know, when the rubber hits the road and the gifts get selected, picked, packed, and distributed. So there are still some critical items that are in process and moving parts that are firming up. But as you mentioned, a new e-commerce model, a new inventory management system, a new distribution model to optimize and make that accessible to the community, new partners that have come into play all with the eye of how can we serve the community? Well Manda, you mentioned a very small, but mighty team. How can our listeners get engaged? How can they help if they want to become part of the process?

Manda Hunt (32:44):

Sure. Well, as any nonprofit would say, you know, the basic need we always have is donations, financial contributions. There’s any number of ways to actually make a financial contribution, including our website, which is, but there’s other opportunities to serve in a leadership role as Karin did for many years, leading a Sponsor a Child fundraising campaign within your organization. And we have tools and resources to set that up so that you can encourage others to support the effort as well, and help us spread the word. Certainly following us on social media. I think awareness is a very challenging thing in this day and age. And then we do, you know, we we’ve figured out a lot of stuff. We’re, we’re making it all work, but we are not logistics experts. We are not supply chain experts [like the TEKTOK audience]. We have just kind of gotten to where we are with a lot of input from some people, but we’re sure that there’s still some room for improvement.

Manda Hunt (33:41):

We still have one big piece of the puzzle that we’re working on, which is now that we have the ordering picking and packing process buttoned up. And then the distribution partner ends, uh, planned at least if not buttoned up, we still have that. How are we going to get the goods from us to them? And we are working right now on, uh, establishing another, hopefully pro bono partnership with someone who will help us with that. But it’s still a very complex process and we’re going to be challenged and trying to figure out exactly how we’re going to do that when we’re going to do it, you know, a lot of the time that this is going to have to happen. If you’ve got 30 different YMCA locations with thousands of kids that they’re going to be serving each and at the timeframe that those are going to have to go out, our door is really gonna be right around Thanksgiving. And the first week of December, and just thinking through how do we do this? It’s, it’s very, very complex. And, you know, it’s a lot to take on. And if there’s somebody out there who has the expertise, we we’d welcome it.

Karin Bursa (34:39):

Absolutely. And I want to express that as well. I mean, you, our listeners are in fact supply chain experts. If you’ve got some thoughts or ideas on how we can transport in an optimal fashion, these holiday packages from the Empty Stocking Fund distribution center out to the YMCA distribution points, we’d love to hear from you, and we’d certainly appreciate your expertise or your muscle in the process to help us get there. So, think about that and feel free to reach out to me, or to reach out to Manda Hunt with The Empty Stocking Fund as well. Again, one more time that website is You can donate right there on the website. I will mention that your dollar goes further. Your dollar goes at least twice, as far as it would if you were out shopping and many times it’s as much as 70% further. So your ability to impact more children is just that much more rewarding. I want to encourage you to consider making a donation at or looking at some of the volunteer opportunities as well. There are supply chain expertise and volunteer opportunities, right Manda?

Manda Hunt (35:57):

So glad you mentioned that because yes, that is definitely something else that we could use some help with! Typically again, we only operate our distribution center for 18 days in December. It’s a very, very fast paced. Normally, many of our corporate sponsors actually sponsor volunteer shifts so that they can send large groups of employees there together. Obviously this year, that’s not happening. Often, most offices are not open with employees working remotely. Employees are not doing anything collectively,  as an organization. So, and we’re expanding our volunteer needs to include right now [November] all the way through the [December] holiday. I want to assure everyone we take COVID very seriously and we have in place pretty tight CDC COVID safety guidelines. We actually are very fortunate to have a partnership with Ecolab which is going to come in and provide sanitizing stations and sanitize the facility on a regular basis.

Manda Hunt (36:52):

We are limiting the numbers of volunteers. We are implementing social distancing, checking temperatures, requiring masks, et cetera. So we are doing everything we can to keep ourselves and our volunteers healthy. Um, I made a joke recently that said, you know, with only four people on the team, we can’t afford for any of us to get sick and it’s still an enjoyable experience for our volunteers. I think it’s still a way to, you know, get out of the house when you’re feeling a little cagey and do some work in a warehouse for good and feel safe and feel very rewarded from the experience.

Karin Bursa (37:26):

Excellent! I agree wholeheartedly. And I would just add that your heart will be richer for the effort and  that the COVID measures are very well organized. Uh, your temperature will be taken upon entry. You will be asked to wear a mask, a path through the distribution center as a one-way path, just to try to keep that social distancing in place as well. So I encourage you to look at some of the volunteer opportunities if you’re led in that direction and to help fulfill these wishes for children in the Metro Atlanta area. So, Manda Hunt with The Empty Stocking Fund, I want to congratulate you on a remarkable transformation in a very short period of time with a very small staff to move mighty, mighty mountains in order to serve the community. So well done!

Manda Hunt (38:16):

Thank you very much! And thank you for giving me the opportunity to share our transformation with your listeners. Appreciate it very much!

Karin Bursa (38:23):

Wonderful! And to our audience, I want to invite you to get involved, to donate or volunteer. I hope that you’re inspired by today’s conversation and the story of rapid transformation.

And on the topic of inspiration, please be sure to tap into a wide variety of resources that are available to you at And while you’re there, please find TEKTOK that’s T E K T O K, and subscribe so that you don’t miss a single episode. This is Karin Bursa, the host of TEKTOK, helping you eliminate the noise and focus on the information and inspiration you need to transform your business,  drive supply chain success and enable you to replace risky inventory with valuable information. We’ll see you next time on TEKTOK, power by Supply Chain Now, the voice of supply chain.

Speaker 4 (39:14):

Thank you.

Manda Hunt is the Executive Director of The Empty Stocking Fund. Manda has nearly 20 years of marketing communications and public relations experience from companies like Jackson Spalding, MagnetBank and even her own PR company. She began working with The Empty Stocking Fund in 2004, and in 2010, she took over as executive director. Each year, Manda fearlessly leads The Empty Stocking Fund toward success, from budgeting and financial reporting to toy and gift sourcing to volunteer coordination and fundraising. Originally from the Tampa Bay area, Manda has lived in Atlanta since 2000 and is an avid (and admittedly obnoxious) Florida State Seminoles fan.

Karin Bursa is the 2020 Supply Chain Pro to Know of the Year and the Host of the TEKTOK Digital Supply Chain Podcast powered by Supply Chain Now. With more than 25 years of supply chain and technology expertise (and the scars to prove it)Karin has the heart of a teacher and has helped nearly 1,000 customers transform their businesses and share their success stories. Today, she helps B2B technology companies introduce new products, capture customer success and grow global revenue, market share and profitability. In addition to her recognition as the 2020 Supply Chain Pro to Know of the Year, Karin has also been recognized as a 2019 and 2018 Supply Chain Pro to Know, 2009 Technology Marketing Executive of the Year and a 2008 Women in Technology Finalist. 

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