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Good Morning! Thank you for developing the Community Tool Kit! I have my MPH from MIZZOU so please do not hate me:)
I run a small family nonprofit. I help out with several community projects and the latest was 'Community Back to School Bash' in Columbia, MO. I would like to avoid people waiting for hours in line in the heat for backpacks, school supplies, food, sneakers, etc. There is the attitude that if people are receiving free goods, then this is the approach they have to tolerate. I know there's a better way to reach the needy in my community without long lines for an event. Do you know any practices/approaches that have worked? Also due to community partners, we can only have the event on a Friday during day time hours. I want to reach the 'working poor'. Is there a model out there that could be useful? I truly appreciate any insights! If you know of any planning software, that is useful for organizing community events, please include that. I would be willing to visit you in Lawrence if this is too much for an email. Many, Many, Thanks!!!!!

     Thank you for your interesting and important question. We warmly welcome graduates of Mizzou, as well as all other comers. And contrary to what you might have heard, the streets of Lawrence are not paved with gold; we are learners ourselves.
     While we have no definitive answers to provide, we can offer some possibilities you might consider and vary upon, depending on the specifics of your situation:
     *  A very simple suggestion is to ask potential recipients to arrive at different times. For example, “If your last name begins with ___, come at ___.”  This involves self-selection and a willingness to follow simple guidelines, and the method is certainly not high-powered. But it may result in some improvement, possibly enough in this case. It also does not require any additional staffing, and any added effort on your part would likely be very minimal.
         A more refined variation of the same idea is to use timed tickets. In this approach, each interested person would need to register by e-mail, text. or phone in advance; all registrants would then receive a confirmation with an assigned time when they would need to appear. This would probably do a better job of minimizing long lines, though it would require the recipient to provide contact information, as well as some staffing to contact recipients with their registration times.
         As you may have experienced, this approach is sometimes used by museums and similar facilities for special exhibits or other exhibitions; you might contact them for details of how such timed procedures work in their settings.  They would also likely know more about any relevant planning software than we do, though we suspect that for your situation as you describe it any complex planning software would not be needed.
   *  If the event must be held during the day on Friday (can this assumption be challenged?), when many of the intended recipients may need to work, could there be some kind of volunteer system, where designated volunteers pick up the back-to-school materials and deliver them to previously-registered recipients?  These volunteers would resemble “neighborhood captains” or “block captains” for the occasion, and could receive some sort of special recognition. A possible advantage here is that these local leaders could perhaps be utilized in other community settings.
   *  If neither of these approaches are feasible, it might be possible to capitalize on the existing line itself by providing some activity during the wait. This could be live entertainment brought in for the occasion, or contests / raffles / giveaways of some kind, or (dare we say it) voter education or some related civic activity. In other words, to the extent possible, waiting in line could be reframed as a happy occasion rather than a heavy burden.
         We hope some of these thoughts might stimulate your own thinking, and will lead you to responses that are both creative and effective. Thanks again for writing, and all best wishes for a magnificent school year ahead!

Question Date: Wed, 08/24/2022