SANDPOINT — Sometimes people just need a little inspiration and the promise of pizza.
It was the Monday before the Coats 4 Kids collection deadline and Encoder Products Company was lacking the typical donations from its employees. A woman who works as an operator in Encoder's machine shop approached Bob White, Encoder's chief financial officer, and told him she was disappointed the Coats 4 Kids box wasn't being taken seriously this year.
"It was lagging behind for one reason or another, and it was something near and dear to her heart," White said.
"She was passionate about it and wanted to know if there was something the company could do to incentivize that a bit."
Donna Carlson, who is the receptionist/accounts receivable and jack-of-all-trades for Encoder, came up with the idea for a pizza party for coat donations, and White came up with the idea for an employee match for all cash donations.
The challenge was brought forth to Encoder's approximately 150 employees, and together, in about a week, they collected 64 coats and other winter items, such as hats and gloves. The employees also donated $600, and with the employer match, a total of $1,200 for Coats 4 Kids.
"Bob came up with the employer match, and I really think that was the catalyst," Carlson said. "It wasn't that people didn't care; I think we all just kept forgetting and putting it off, then all of a sudden it became priority."
Encoder always has "amazing" donations for Coats 4 Kids, said Karen Battenschlag, local Coats 4 Kids coordinator.
"When (Carlson) told me this story, I was totally blown away," Battenschlag said. "With the money and the fact that the company decided to match it; that really took it the extra mile."
While Carlson and White were even surprised at the amount of items and cash donated, White said the employees at Encoder are "very generous." They go out of their way, he said, to help the community and help each other.
"We knew, with the employees we have, that if the company backed this a little bit and drew some attention to it, we could do a lot better, and this shows that we could," White said.
Battenschlag said she had gathered 931 coats from the other participating businesses across the county, as well as more than $700, bringing the total monetary donations to nearly $2,000. She will be able to purchase about 70 more coats with the money from Encoder, so the total of coats will exceed her original goal of 1,000.
Because of the number of coats and other winter items donated, Battenschlag said distribution, which was originally scheduled to end Nov. 5, has been extended to Nov. 16. in the Bonner Mall.
Mary Malone can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.