Countywide Web site boosts philanthropy 

Donna Colson of Burlingame likes to turn giving into a family experience, but her two daughters, 6 and 8, delight in giving gifts, not cutting checks.

So 43-year-old Colson, like other good Samaritans with more stuff than money to give away, is keen on a little-known Peninsula-wide Web site that takes your possessions and turns them into your local nonprofit’s gold.

"We could involve our whole family in the giving decision — our girls are getting to that age where they are enjoying participating in philanthropy," said Colson, who has donated everything from computers to towels to groups such as early childhood education provider Palcare.

Borrowing from models such as Craigslist that connect neighbors to one another directly, debuted last month as a searchable site after several years in a paper booklet format.

Using the site is simple. Type in what you want to contribute — say, the baby stroller that junior outgrew — and up pops San Mateo-based CORA, which needs the buggy for domestic-abuse victims in its transitional housing or 16-bed shelter. A few more clicks and you’ll be hooked up with CORA’s development associate, Janet Sussman, and the exchange is worked out from there.

Burlingame’s mayor, Terry Nagel, conceived of the idea. "My thought in doing this was to think of ways one could help another without spending a lot of money — everybody has stuff they’re trying to unload," Nagel said. "The idea is that we could have matches between folks who need items and folks who have them,"

The wish list concept, created with open source software by Burlingame developer Anne Hennegar, is spreading. A city in Hawaii already wants to copy the idea.

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