The Power of Good(s)

Kasia Maslanka: 2023 Good Neighbor Award Winner

REALTOR® Kasia Maslanka has helped keep 400 tons of new merchandise out of landfills each year by giving nonprofits access to products they need.

Kasia Maslanka

Two or three times a week, a 53-foot tractor trailer pulls up to one of two South Florida warehouses operated by Morningday Community Solutions. If Kasia Maslanka is there when a truck arrives, she can practically feel her heart leap.

“It’s always so exciting. It’s like Santa coming to the door. We don’t know what it’s going to be, but we know it’s going to be good,” says Maslanka, who co-founded the organization that makes life better for tens of thousands of people, most of whom she’ll never meet.

The merchandise, most still in boxes, is stacked on dozens of pallets—items like laptops, running shoes, school supplies, toasters and bedsheets. Sometimes, trucks are stuffed to the brim with never-opened toys and games and artificial Christmas trees.

More than merely "stuff," these goods have the power to change lives.

Trucks are carefully unloaded, and the merchandise is checked to make sure everything works. Only then is the bounty ready for redistribution by MCS, a 13-year-old nonprofit with the mission to help other nonprofits fulfill theirs. The organization’s reach is vast; it provides goods to nearly 700 nonprofits serving adults and children with all kinds of needs, primarily in four Florida counties. Any 501(c)(3) organization in MCS’s service area can become a member, including groups that support disadvantaged youth, homeless people or abandoned animals, as well as schools, churches and synagogues.

Win-win for Retailers

MCS gladly accepts almost any item from retailers, except perishable food. But these donations aren’t dusty hand-me downs. Every item the organization receives is either brand-new or nearly so.

How is this possible?

The items are donated by businesses from mega-sized online retailers to local mom-and-pop shops that find themselves with burdensome amounts of unsold or returned merchandise. MCS then donates the items or sells them to nonprofits for 20% to 30% of retail price to help cover its operating costs.

‘‘We take a lot from places that have a lot and give it to people who need it the most.” –Kasia Maslanka

MCS serves as the only hub in Florida for a national organization called Good360 that delivers truckloads of unsold or returned goods through partners like MCS. Regular shipments to MCS come from retailers such as Amazon, CVS Health, Mattel and Gap Inc. MCS uses its own trucks to pick up from Walmart and other nearby retailers.

And those truckloads underscore another mission: diverting tons of perfectly good products that would otherwise be treated as garbage. “It’s unbelievable how much good stuff would be thrown away,” Maslanka says. Every year, MCS’s efforts keep more than 400 tons of “waste” out of landfills.

Born Out of the Foreclosure Era

Maslanka and MCS co-founder Greg Bales began as business partners flipping foreclosed properties during the painful recession of 2008 and 2009. Over a three-year period, they snapped up, renovated and resold about 30 bank-owned homes and sold another 20 foreclosed properties to wholesalers because they couldn’t tackle all the remodeling work.

During that time, they also committed to giving back. They earmarked 20% of their profits to a local foster care agency, 4Kids of South Florida. That was gratifying, but they knew they wanted to do more.

As regular Home Depot customers, they knew of the giant retailer’s partnership with Good360 to donate unused materials that would be redistributed to nonprofits.

And then it clicked. “The mission to close the gap between businesses and nonprofits really resonated with us,” she says. “We saw how nonprofits would benefit if they could get products from retailers at reduced prices. And these were things that would otherwise go to waste.”

“I’m now in this world of abundance and tremendous waste. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to be part of something where we can pass things on to people who really need them.” –Kasia Maslanka

To help get their venture off the ground, Maslanka and Bales donated the entire proceeds of two of their foreclosed property sales, nearly $100,000. Using a 2,500-square-foot warehouse, MCS became an approved redistribution partner of Good360, and their operations took off. MCS has grown to include seven employees and relies on about 200 volunteers.

“In the last 13 years, we’ve saved nonprofits $9 million that they can use for their missions, and we’ve kept 10 million pounds of products out of landfills,” says Buddy Walck, former Home Depot manager who is now MCS’s executive director.

A Childhood of Scarcity

For Maslanka, the excessive levels of waste bring to mind her childhood in communist-era Poland, a period marked by a scarcity of goods and an entrenched conservation mindset. “We were taught to repurpose things as creatively as possible,” says Maslanka, who emigrated to the U.S. in 2005. “I remember that a store would have one set of furniture that everyone would get. And we’d all wear the same kind of shoes.

“I’m now in this world of abundance and tremendous waste,” she adds. “I’m blessed to have the opportunity to be part of something where we can pass things on to people who really need them.”

Maslanka’s natural skills as a real estate professional have benefitted the nonprofit. For her, the two enterprises are inextricably tied: “Our nonprofit exists because of my work in real estate.”

“It was mind-blowing to learn how much stuff stores have that they can’t sell. This is a huge problem.” –Kasia Maslanka

Showering Love Inc., a South Florida nonprofit that brings mobile showers, laundry access and other support services to homeless people, is one organization that depends on MCS.

“Morningday makes it possible for us to stretch our dollars,” says Jeanne Albaugh, Showering Love’s CEO and founder. “Without them, we couldn’t offer nearly as much to our guests.” The charity distributes shampoo, sunscreen, toothbrushes and toothpaste, flip-flops, insect repellent and new clothing that had been purchased at a steep discount from MCS. When guests of Showering Love have a job interview coming up or the chance to do day labor, Albaugh is thrilled to pull out some special merchandise stored in the bus. “We have cases of brand-new work shirts that are nicely pressed with cardboard still wrapped around the collars,” she says.

Albaugh’s mantra captures the MCS spirit to a T: “If we all do a little, we can achieve a lot.” And sometimes, a new pair of sunglasses with the tags still on, she adds, can be enough to change someone’s perspective on life.

Kasia Maslanka of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is broker-associate at Douglas Elliman and founder of Morningday Community Solutions.


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