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A new way to give

Della Rosenthal's Donors Resource is simple but revolutionary
by: CLIFF NEWELL, 
Della Rosenthal, left, and Sherri Sacconaghi have teamed up to operate Donors Resource, a non-profit that’s like “the Craigslist of nonprofits.”

Three years ago, Della Rosenthal stood in the garage 'with a ton of things' at her Lake Oswego home, and asked, 'What am I going to do with all this stuff?'

The answer to that question proved to be absolutely cosmic. In fact, it still stuns Rosenthal.

From that overflowing garage, she has created Donors Resource, a nonprofit that operates like no other, one that is reaching way, way beyond the boundaries of Lake Oswego. Think Pakistan. Think Africa.

'Something like this has not been done before,' Rosenthal said. 'It's like the Craigslist of nonprofits.'

'Della Rosenthal is amazing!' said her friend Sherri Sacconaghi, and also her new sidekick in operating the charity. 'I have never seen someone so focused and dedicated to helping others.'

That is remarkable, since Rosenthal's original intention was only to clean out her garage back in 2005. However, she had little success in finding anybody who wanted to accept what she wanted to give away until she contacted the North Portland Nurse Practitioners Clinic.

'There was an abused woman who had just left Detroit with only the clothes on her back,' Rosenthal said. 'We were able to furnish this young mom with almost everything she needed. I said to myself, 'This is what we got to do.''

Teaming up with her sister Deborah Waggoner, Rosenthal started Sisters of the Community in 2006, for which the real-life sisters rented a warehouse in Tigard and personally picked up and delivered anything that could be used by people in need - clothes, furniture, pots and pans, baby items, etc.

In 18 months the sisters collected 20,000 items.

'They really caught my attention,' Sac-conaghi said. 'Here were two people so dedicated, spending their time, money, everything.'

Truly, Sisters of the Community was a successful nonprofit operation. But, to Rosenthal, not successful enough.

'We were essentially managing a warehouse and not distributing things as quickly as we wanted,' she said. 'The store became too big. We just wanted to give to families. So we closed the distribution center, and now it's all online.'

The result was Donors Resource, a Web site launched in April, and again the results exceeded Rosenthal's expectations, with 1,250 items already being posted and claimed. Donors can post the items they want to donate, and only approved nonprofit organizations can claim them.

'I think we've done pretty good considering we just started,' Rosenthal said. 'Our whole goal is for people to know we exist.'

Waggoner had to step out of the project, but Sacconaghi (she and Rosenthal are mothers of children enrolled at Uplands Elementary School) stepped right in and is serving as president of the board.

There are now 160 nonprofits registered with the site, and that is only a drop in the bucket of the number that would like to participate. Rosenthal has heard from nonprofits as far away as Arizona and Florida, plus several foreign countries.

But not willing to bite off even more than she can chew, Rosenthal is for now restricting operations to Oregon and southwest Washington. Pretty good for a little nonprofit in Lake Oswego.

'We know we're making a difference in a major way,' Rosenthal said. 'Our goal is to be the nation's conduit for nonprofit giving.'

For Sacconaghi, Donors Resource has been rejuvenating. A lifelong Lake Oswegan, Sacconaghi had worked for 12 years as a treatment counselor for the Christie School and 'swore I would never do nonprofit work again. It's just hard work.'

Thanks to Rosenthal, she is back in the saddle.

'Having something like this would have been a dream at Christie School,' Sacconaghi said. 'There were 80 kids there constantly needing things. When I met Della with Sisters of the Community when I had a bed I wanted to give away. She said, 'I want it. I'm coming to get it.'

'Here she is a mom of two, like I'm a mom of two, and she is doing this amazing service. I just want to do what I can to help.'

Donors Resource is already big, and it figures to get a lot bigger. But although there is increasing volunteer, donor and sponsor support, it is still basically a two-women operation.

Asked if she had ever been overwhelmed by what had so unexpectedly happened, Rosenthal smiled and said, 'I still am overwhelmed. I'm overwhelmed every day. But I love this.'

Truly, it is a happy kind of overwhelmed. Rosenthal may be a bit weary, but the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment make up for it, as attested to by the raft of praise she has received from donors, nonprofits and recipients.

'Our main message is that this is such an amazing way to give and to serve,' Rosenthal said. 'People want to give. They just need to know how to give.'

To find out much more about Donors Resource, go to http://www.donorsresource.org/ .

'It's really easy to use,' Sacconaghi promised. 'Once people try it, they'll be hooked.'