Net gains

Web site connects givers with receivers

By Connie Berry
SUN editor

Looking for someone to take away that old sofa that doesn’t match the new decor in the living frontpageimageroom? A safe bet would be that there’s a parish someplace or a refugee family or a youth center that would benefit by your old “stuff.”

Amy Caputo and her husband Todd, parishioners of Immaculate Conception in Fayetteville, developed a web site nine years ago,, that matches donors with those in need. Amy and Todd liked to jog in their neighborhood and when they did, they would see a treasure trove of items left at the curb — perfectly good bicycles, dressers, sofas, baby cribs and other items.

“We thought these were great things that just weren’t being put to use,” Amy said.
Her husband designed the easy-to-navigate web site with the idea that charities could list items they need and donors could go to that list and whenever they had something to donate they could check the site and find a worthy recipient. The result, nine years later, is that more than 400 charities benefit from the program.

Fran Currier is manager of the New Hope Crisis Pregnancy Center in Mexico, N.Y. Her not-for-profit organization has only been listed on the site — abbreviated GTO — a few weeks and it has already reaped benefits.

“It has benefited us beautifully,” Currier said. “We need a lot of baby formula and someone donated a case right away. We check the site every day.”

GTO has grown to include charities in 17 counties in Central New York. Caputo grew up in St. Lucy’s Parish on Syracuse’s west side. That parish is now one of the not-for-profits listed on GTO.  She says the site is designed to connect individuals or businesses with anything to donate — in good or excellent condition — to a nonprofit entity. Amy checks out each nonprofit that registers on the site. They must have a user name and password, and they must provide proof they are a 501c3 organization. All of the registering is done with a couple of clicks on the web site. Caputo even faxes all the charities each Monday with an updated list of what is available to them.

Mary Varick at Cathedral Emergency Services said she’s probably one of the site’s most regular users. “I got involved when it was first started,” Varick said. “I bet we’ve received about 250 items through the site. It’s easy to use and easy to navigate. It’s very simple.”

Varick said that her organization helps people start over and oftentimes that means they need beds and other furniture. “We’re always looking for beds,” Varick said. “And the need has grown over the years and because of the need, there are fewer items available out there for people.”

Caputo has many success stories involving GTO including a youth center that received an entire computer lab because a local business was upgrading its computers. Another person donated camping equipment that went to a local boy scout troop. A youth group received a television, sofas, chairs and other furniture. The services GTO provides are free to both donors and the charity recipients. If a donor is interested in a tax donation, he or she can get information from the charity.

Linda Napier is director of Fayetteville-Manlius Community Outreach and she helps coordinate services between food pantries and churches within her community.

“A wonderful man found out about us through the web site,” Napier explained. “He emailed me for the first time last year and he wanted to know exactly what we needed. We gave him our list and he came here with everything on the list. We call him our ‘pantry angel.’”

Napier also posted items on the site to donate when she was cleaning out her father-in-law’s home. “So we’ve been on both sides of the fence,” she said.

For Caputo, the joy of providing a place for people to give to others is what keeps her going. She would like to see GTO expand to include all of New York State.

“It’s beyond rewarding when you are able to help other people,” Caputo said. “We have people who call us who have been sleeping on the floor, by the next day, they have a bed to sleep in.”

Word has gotten out about the web site either through word-of-mouth or the late-night infomercials about GTO. Caputo sees the need for donated items growing in the struggling economy and she’s glad to facilitate the relationship between donor and recipient. Charities registered with the site include several churches, Catholic Charities, Catholic schools, elderly care organizations, animal welfare organizations and many other groups. Caputo is even willing to help those who are not computer savvy. Call her at (888) 619-0032 and she can help post a need or post a donation.

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