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User Spotlight: Lori Schmiege, CARITAS

Meet Lori Schmiege, Social Enterprise Developer at CARITAS.

Tell us about yourself and what you do at your organization.

I started at CARITAS as a volunteer shopper (assisting clients to choose furniture for their home) four years ago before coming aboard as an AmeriCorp member in 2010. I saw a need for bed bug prevention and started to investigate a solution. Upon my completion of my AmeriCorps contract I continued as a consultant to develop a bed bug ?oven.? I was officially hired as a full time CARITAS staff member last year and couldn?t be more delighted.

My focus is on environmental ways to provide services/business for the CARITAS programs and earn income. Currently, Sleep Tight Bed Bug Baker heat treats all furniture coming into our warehouse that will subsequently be given to our clients. But we use our machine for anyone in the area that is suffering from bed bugs. We have even heat-treated wheelchairs and prostheses!

What do you find most rewarding about your work and what is your biggest accomplishment in this position?

When we visit a person that is suffering from bed bugs and she is elderly and on a fixed income, we are able to heat treat all her furnishings in one day preserving her cherished furnishings. I know that she will have a peaceful rest when she goes to sleep that night. Bed bugs are not a health hazard, but they are nightmare. I am continually seeking new ways to remedy a bad situation and find a solution.

Designing, building and becoming certified to kill bed bugs was the total ?eureka? moment. This project is a triple bottom line accomplishment.  We kill bed bugs, using only heat, no chemicals. We hired a bed bug technician contributing to the employment factor. Lastly, we earn income from the program.

What are some major challenges you have faced and how did you handle them? What is an important lesson learned in this position?

It is shocking to see how hard someone works on a daily basis and how little money they have after they pay the rent, utilities and food.  My heart breaks when a man shows me his paycheck and tell me his rent then states, ?How am I going to pay for bed bug treatment??  We try to offer different resources where a customer might find the needed funds.
I have learned so much from contact with victims of bed bugs. I have learned to be compassionate and not blame anyone for his or her circumstances. Who knows how bed bugs arrived and it doesn?t matter.  No one deserves to live with these annoying nuisances.

What?s coming next for you or your organization that really excites you?

We are building a laundry service. From the start, we will be handling all the CARITAS shelter linens. But it will also serve to sanitize clothing and linens for bed bug victims and hopefully grow into a larger service for other nonprofits and commercial contracts.

Next month we?ll be hosting the Savvy Shopper Indoor Yard Sale. Powered by CARITAS, find us in a warehouse in the up and coming Old Manchester neighborhood. Rain or Shine, the sale goes on. There is something for everyone at great bargains!

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