Attention, YOU. Vacation rental owner. You need to read this.
When I moved to Cape Cod, Massachusetts in the 1990’s, the Cape had mostly two classes, the uber-wealthy and the poor. My first job when I arrived was as a social worker for lower income young families and I was shocked at the poverty that I saw there. I had researched the Cape before moving, and, I had looked at the relatively low crime rate and number of beaches in each town (you know, the important stuff), but I had no idea that there were so many people struggling to make ends meet on the peninsula known for summer vacations.
By the time I purchased my first home in Maine, I was familiar with the economy of a seaside tourist area. People work hard — often seven days a week — during the summer months, but then have very little income for the rest of the year. Many residents cobble together several jobs – 2 or 3 even, to make ends meet. Unless you are one of the privileged few, day to day living can be a struggle to meet the basic needs – housing, food and other necessities.
For several years now, I’ve wanted to start a program where visitors can give back to the local residents. Where they can show appreciation for the people who make their vacation possible in the first place. Cape Cod has had a very successful program for years, called Pantry Partners. My goal was to model something like that up here in Vacationland.
I finally got the nudge, when a fellow vacation rental owner (in another part of the world) told me about an organization called Pack for a Purpose. The premise is simple — fill that little corner of your suitcase when you travel with something that you can donate to help a local person or family at your destination. I quickly applied to Pack for a Purpose and Wicked Awesome Maine Vacation Rentals was accepted into their program – one of the very few participants in the United States and the only one (at this time) in Maine.
As part of the application process, I had to choose at least one local project for visitors to donate to. I chose two — The We Care Baby Center located in Machias and the Machias Food Pantry. It’s easy to donate. Visitors can either pack a little something extra in their suitcases, or can purchase something while in Maine to leave at their rental house for donation.
Even more painless, when it’s time to check out of the rental house, guests can leave an unopened can or box of food in the specified location to be donated to the local food pantry. Almost all of our guests have an extra, unopened container of food (or paper products) that make excellent donations.
In my own rental homes, I leave a basket (in one rental, it’s a clam basket) with a note with instructions to leave donations there. Periodically, I will gather up the donations and take to either the BabyCenter or food pantry. For homes that I manage but don’t own, the owners can leave a specific spot, of course, or guests can leave donations right on the kitchen table to be collected.
Imagine if every vacation rental property in Maine did this?
6000+ vacation rentals times 10 weeks in the average rental season. If every guest left the equivalent of one pound of donations (ie. two cans of vegetables), that would be 60,000 pounds of food to be donated to local food pantries in Maine.
So here’s the challenge:
1) Put out a basket or box in your rental.
2) Affix a sign requesting a donation of leftover, non-perishable food.
3) From time to time, donate the collection to a local food pantry.
4) But also important… LET ME KNOW
Send me an email. Message my website. Hit me up on Facebook.
I want to keep track of the donations…as we grow…we can become more organized.