A 53-foot Amazon truck arrived at the doorstep of the Amador Tuolumne County Action Agency Food Bank in Jamestown Friday afternoon laden with a 20,000 pound donation of hygiene items, water and foodstuffs.
The sheer magnitude of the donation had been a surprise, Executive Director Raj Rambob said, but the donation represented an apology on behalf of Amazon for a technical snafu that had impacted hundreds of local transients following a summertime census of the area homeless population conducted over the summer.
ATCAA used a portion of a $10,000 grant from the Sonora Area Foundation to purchase gift cards to give the homeless for participating in the survey, Rambob said.
“For Amazon this isn't that big of a donation, but it is to us. We are very grateful to have it,” he said. “I am actually really impressed with their willingness to respond to a customer service issue.”
Many of the gift cards were purchased through Amazon, but some found that after they had brought their chosen items to a checkstand, the gift cards didn’t work.
“It was a horrific situation that we inadvertently put people in,” Rambob said.
In all, 711 people participated in the survey.
It took some time, Rambob said, but ATCAA was able to secure a refund for the cards. Throughout the appeal process, he said, Amazon employees learned more and more about ATCAA and believed they could go one step further to “make things right.”
“We were blown away,” he said.”
The ATCAA Food Bank, located on the 10000 block of Victoria Way in Jamestown, will offer a product distribution to more than 14 county pantries and philanthropic organizations such as the Tuolumne County Senior Center and InterFaith on Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., ATCAA Food Bank Director Deni Avery said.
Friday’s delivery, which arrived at the Food Bank at about 3 p.m., was Amazon’s first donation to ATCAA, Avery said.
Deni and her staff were stunned when the entire haul was revealed, she said. All the items were on pallets and moved via a forklift into the food bank warehouse that Friday afternoon, where staff began separating and sorting the items for the first distribution on Monday morning
“It was quite a bit of work but we managed,” she said, laughing. “We got through it.”
The shipment, which was tentatively estimated at about $76,000, she said, included, deodorants, shampoos, soap, laundry detergent, pretzels, diapers, baby formula, pedialyte, adult incontinence items and bottled water, she said.
“These are all things our pantries try to supply to people in our community but are extremely expensive,” she said.
Typically, she added, disadvantaged populations usually visit pantries for food. But many of the area organizations offer more.
The 20,000 pound Amazon donation was far beyond regular monthly food drives, which average 2,000 to 4,000 pounds of food.
Columbia Elementary School students had exceeded the Amazon donation, she said, accruing about 24,000 pounds of food during a canned food drive.
“Our local kids are incredible,” she said.
Rambob said the shelf life on all of the items was “pretty solid,” which would assist in doling out the consumable items.
“Everything that they've donated is very relevant to the people that we serve,” he said. “We will network with out partners and get them to people. We have time to get them to the right place.”
The refunded money from the Amazon gift cards will be used to purchase replacement gift cards, this time from a local source, Rambob said.
“If there is a problem, we can rectify it quicker,” he said.