Business

Usful Glassworks needs $250K of donations this week to stay alive

Usful Glassworks tells its story

In this video, Usful Glassworks tells its story. The nonprofit turns used glass bottles into new products, including drinking glasses and pitchers that can be found in restaurants around the Treasure Valley. It provides job training and experience
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In this video, Usful Glassworks tells its story. The nonprofit turns used glass bottles into new products, including drinking glasses and pitchers that can be found in restaurants around the Treasure Valley. It provides job training and experience

It’s crunch time at a Boise nonprofit known for creating drinking glasses from old wine bottles — and, in the process, giving job skills to refugees and others who need it.

Usful Glassworks is “in a rough patch,” Executive Director Carlyn Blake says.

The organization started seven years ago. It has trained hundreds of people. It has 15 to 20 job-training participants now.

Usful (pronounced “useful”) has now reached a turning point, Blake said. If it does not raise almost $250,000 by the end of this week, it will shut down or seek another organization willing to take it over.

Usful launched its “All In Crusade” fundraiser in March. It had raised just 6 percent of its $250,000 goal as of Tuesday.

The nonprofit plans to use the “one-time influx of money” to hire employees to take some work off Blake’s hands so she can spend more time fundraising.

Blake said her main role as an executive director should be overseeing the nonprofit, advocating for it and raising money. Instead, she said, her attention is split between those duties and managing production, the office, volunteers, operations and grant-writing.

“I’m exhausted, and I can’t continue to do that without help,” she said. “I’m on a little bit of a hamster wheel right now, and I can’t get off the hamster wheel without help, and I can’t fundraise without getting off the hamster wheel.”

Blake thinks this is the same turning point a lot of nonprofits reach — when the organization has to become sustainable or call it quits. It can’t raise enough money until it hires more people, but it can’t hire more people until it raises enough money.

Blake said Usful Glassworks has an employee budget of $83,000 to pay her, two full-time production line supervisors and a part-time worker who picks up glass bottles. (The staffing budget has been low for years, with Blake taking a $21,200 salary in 2014, according to the most recent federal tax return available on Guidestar.)

Aside from those paid employees, the organization relies on volunteers and its job-training participants.

If the “All In Crusade” fundraiser doesn’t raise enough money to save Usful Glassworks, the donations will be used to pay creditors and give employees a severance payment, Blake said.

To donate, visit https://www.gofundme.com/usfulglass.

Audrey Dutton: 208-377-6448, @audreydutton

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