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'Donations waiting to happen'

Published: Saturday, March 29 2014 11:10 a.m. MDT

A series of new commercials, "Donating Waiting to Happen," employs humor to encourage people to give their resalable items to Deseret Industries.

Courtesy of Deseret Industries

Here’s a question that’s never been asked: What do Big Foot, a propeller-sized sandwich and a rice cooker (capable of cooking four quarts) have in common?

The answer: Each plays a starring role in a series of humorous, entirely off-beat commercials promoting the Deseret Industries and its essential mission to assist others.

The 30-second ads were recently released on Utah television stations. They can also be found on several websites, including deseretindustries.org, and have become favorites on social media.

In one commercial — spoiler alert — a young, strapped-for-space husband makes peace with his decision to donate his towering Big Foot statue to the Deseret Industries.

In another, a guy wearing a sweat band and sitting on a weight bench struggles to lift what’s assumed to be a heavy dumbbell. The camera pans out to reveal the weight is actually a massive submarine sandwich. Meanwhile, the man’s wife hangs the family laundry from his exercise equipment.

And in the third, a newly married couple, surrounded by relatives, opens their final wedding gift. Yep, it’s another rice cooker — the last of many such identical appliances. “That one makes four quarts of rice,” announces one proud family member.

The weight bench, the rice cooker and even Big Foot, the ads declare, are all “Donations waiting to happen.”

But that’s just the first half of each commercial. The remaining time demonstrates that every donation helps the Deseret Industries accomplish its central role: helping folks develop the skills they need to succeed in today’s job market.

One associate seen in the commercials received job training in phlebotomy, through the financial help of Deseret Industries. Others earn vocational certificates that will allow them to find work once they move on from employment at one of the Church’s 42 Deseret Industries stores, located across seven states.

“The message of the commercials is that donations to the Deseret Industries bring a new life to people in need,” said Deseret Industries director Lee Hardy.

Through humor, the new ads gently encourage would-be donors to part with the stuff they don’t need so it can be put to good use at a Deseret Industries.

“We wanted to show that donating can be fun, but it’s also going to help change lives,” Brother Hardy said.

First established by the Church in 1938, the Deseret Industries remains far more than a chain of thrift stores. The donated items provide an inventory of resalable goods that allow the Deseret Industries to train people in a wide range of different careers.

Deseret Industries associates are typically facing some sort of personal challenge “that’s a barrier to employment,” said Brother Hardy.

Besides working at a store and earning a paycheck, each associate is teamed with a job coach and provided training that can lead to steady work in the job market. The Deseret Industries provides employment and job training to about 10,000 people each year.

The current batch of commercials has made a lot of fans — so don’t be surprised to see a new generation of “Donations waiting to happen” ads in the future.