If you’ve ever wondered what to do with those pens, calendars, T-shirts, and unused banquet food that’s left over after a meeting or trade show, wonder no more. There’s a new nonprofit organization, CharityDirect, that can connect the meetings and exhibition industry with charities in need of surplus goods. "There are so many surplus goods that are thrown away after a trade show or convention," says Reverend Bill Metzdorf, CharityDirect’s executive director. "We wanted to find a way to make it easy for those surplus products to go directly to a local charity that can make use of them, while exhibitors can go home with a tax receipt instead of having to hassle with packing and shipping the extras back home."

And charities need these goods now more than ever. "Many donors gave charities gifts of appreciated stock in the past," says Metzdorf. "With the stock market tanking the way it has been, appreciated stock isn’t something people are seeing any more." Charities are seeing about a 20 percent decrease in donations this year, he says.

The idea for CharityDirect began during a conversation between Metzdorf, Father Joe Caroll of St. Vincent de Paul Village, and Brian Stevens of ConferenceDirect about how nonprofits depend on so many revenue streams to keep their programs going. Metzdorf, who has frequently given the invocation at ASAE and PCMA Foundation events, pulled together a board that includes people like chairman David Noonan of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, chair-elect Charlotte St. Martin of Loews Hotels, secretary George D. Kirkland of the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, and treasurer Brian Stevens of ConferenceDirect. The organization, which also can hook groups up with teambuilding opportunities that also give back to the host community, now is open for business.

The organization is starting small, in Southern California cities like Los Angeles and San Diego, because "we have the logistical infrastructure in place to collect and distribute the items," through the St. Vincent de Paul Village, which has trucks on the roads doing pickups seven days a week and provides approximately 4,000 meals each day, says Metzdorf. Once the model is proven in Southern California, the plan is to take it to other first- and second-tier cities, then continue to expand. "The plan is to conquer the world," jokes Metzdorf.

For more information, contact CharityDirect at (619) 231-8510; or visit www.CharityDirect.org.