Employee Spotlight: Q&A with Rick Henningsen

Rick Henningsen is Planet Aid’s Operations Manager for the
New York and New Jersey office. We sat down with him to pick his brain. 

What does your job entail exactly?

As Operations Manager I’m basically analyzing collection and shipping activity on a day-to-day basis. So I’m reviewing not only the kind of textiles we bring in, but how everything is being sent out while taking care of the employees, taking care of transportation, really everything.

What are some of the best parts of the job?

The best part of the job is knowing at the end of the day that your hard work is going to pay off and help somebody. We’re not reporting and getting a result for a shareholder. It’s about doing a good a job and helping people across the globe that really need it.

rick - planet aid operations manager

What are some of your biggest challenges?

The biggest challenge that we have right now would be reaching city councils and explaining why we’re in their area, what we’re doing, and how we’re different from all the other companies that are out there.  Our goal is to develop recycling programs within cities and towns, and show them a good way of doing it and how they can benefit.

Its very easy right now for people to just throw out their clothing. It’s difficult just to get people to understand how the used clothing process works. The biggest response that we get is, “Oh, you sell it?” And I have to tell them, “We’re no different from any other charity collecting clothes. Everyone sells what they collect.” 

The New York City area has recently banned all clothing donations bins to prevent so called “fake” charities from collecting people’s clothes. How are you dealing with this?

The new bin ordinance has destroyed clothes recycling in New York City. I’m trying to help them realize that we offer them a program that saves tax dollars and does something good for the world.  

Your unit works with the community a lot, and even helped in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. How do you find these opportunities?

When Sandy hit, it affected everything. Some of our yellow bins were floating in the water! One day afterwards when I was coming into work, one of the car dealerships in New York was having a big event hosted by a local radio DJ where people could stop by and drop things off. So I pulled in, gave them my card, and said, “I work for Planet Aid, I could get you clothes, what else are you looking for?” The DJ says they needed gloves and garbage bags, so I came back and gave him boxes of garbage bags and the gloves that we use in the warehouse.

I also told him I could get them a lot of water for the people that needed it down there. He gave me the number for the head of Clear Channel, and I called him. He said, “This is great, when can you deliver?” I got pallets of water and a lot of clothes. And after people understood what we did they were like, “That’s amazing.” 

We also more recently brought bags of clothes to people in hospitals, and I’ve set up a couple programs with sports clubs, too. There’s one nonprofit group that started in the Bronx that we work with. They realized the kids were going to get involved with drugs or crime after school, so they got them involved with sports. They organize a big basketball team, so I started a clothing drive last year with them. It’s not like they raise a ton of money, but the money they raise helps them promote the team, and the team has been ranked one or two in the country for the last few years.  We’ll also buy Gatorade and water for them when they go away.

What are some of the other challenges you face?

Some people like to dump or put garbage on our site because they know that Planet Aid will do the right thing and remove it and clean the area. And, unfortunately, there are some people who try to steal items from the bins, so we do use GPS trackers so we can know when the clothes are taken and we can locate them. Like any other company out there, if you don’t do your due diligence, people are going to take advantage of you.

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