Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

Looking for “The Blue Barrel Man”— Chicago’s Judson Kinnucan becomes unlikely symbol of Social Entrepreneurship.

In the midst of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon on a hot August day in Chicago, thousands of people hit the streets of downtown Chicago looking to make a declaration of achievement, of accomplishment and a sense of being that says “I can do it.”

These people have nothing on Judson Kinnucan, whose can-do attitude has been made wearing a life-sized 20-pound blue plastic barrel while running his race; he has become known as the “Blue Barrel Man” on social media sites and among his friends.

A little crazy? Maybe. But as founder of Bin Donated, Kinnucan is more concerned with helping those in need than how he looks.

One Person’s Trash REALLY Is Someone Else’s Treasure

Kinnucan started Bin Donated ( in July 2009, with a vision of connecting people and businesses who have excess household items with non-profit organizations who can benefit from their generosity. To date, his efforts have collected thousands of pounds of books, hygiene products and food. His passion to help those in need stemmed from working in the staffing industry and involvement with other charities in the city. Before working as a recruiter, Kinnucan spent six weeks voluntarily driving a produce delivery van for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. It was this experience that would later lead him to join several charity boards and support many other charitable organizations.

“Bin Donated contends that everyone has the opportunity to give something to someone else—even if they don’t recognize they have something to give,” said Kinnucan. “Look inside and out of your own community, and you’ll find someone who needs something that you truly don’t.”

Kinnucan notes that Bin Donated’s model is rooted deeply in both “social responsibility” and “entrepreneur.” Making Bin Donated a successful operation shows what it means to be a social entrepreneur in today’s society and that charities mean business too.

“When we hear the term, ‘social entrepreneurialism,’ we don’t want people to just think ‘charity’ or ‘cause.’ Bin Donated is most successful when we make the connections between the donors and other charitable groups in the area,” he notes. It requires a high degree of social knowledge and personality, but it also needs someone who has the drive and energy to make a difference.

Bin Donated works with area buildings and businesses to allow one of its barrels to be show cased in a high-traffic area for up to two weeks. In return, the barrel features the company’s logo and other types of brand placement, providing significant community relations exposure through simple in-kind donation. Upon donations being received, Bin Donated volunteers sort and package the items which are then transported and donated to the designated charity partners free of charge. Best of all, the service is free for donation locations and charity partners, with no contracts to sign and no long-term obligations. They can offer this service free of charge because of the generous financial donations from their donors and from the barrel sponsorships they receive.

Making A Difference Starts With Sharing

As any good entrepreneur would tell you, Kinnucan seeks out inspiration from many different and unusual places. But as a social entrepreneur, he looks at the power of groupthink to recognize the true value of what he does for a living.

“Bin Donated knows that people who care about the health and well-being of others as well as the environment make better friends, good neighbors, more productive workers and model citizens,” Kinnucan says. “When groups of these individuals get together friendships flourish, neighborhood homes increase in value, companies set record growth and the community becomes a better place to live. Bin Donated wants to help these caring people in the community make the world a better place now and for future generations to come.”

This sense of community also transcends how Bin Donated conducts its business. The process of collecting goods with barrels is highly sustainable. Bin Donated uses recycled materials in as many ways as possible—including the more than 200 blue collection barrels donated by the company that makes Lemonhead candy, and by redirecting useful items away from a trash bin, landfill or other waste receptacle. It’s these and other applications which help Kinnucan get more businesses on board with Bin Donated’s processes.

“We recognize that if a business is going to be connected with a non-profit group such as Bin Donated, then that group should show how its resources are allocated. We want to do everything possible to show that what we do makes good business sense as much as it makes good human sense.”

Bin Donated is collecting thousands of pounds of donations on a monthly basis on a very low budget. Their storage space is donated, they rent trucks when we need them, the collection barrels are free and labor costs are kept as low as possible.

As but one example, during the last week in July, Bin Donated collected 3,256 trial-size toothpaste, 762 dental floss containers, 665 toothbrushes and 332 large toothpastes from 29 of more than 1,000 dentist offices in Chicago. It took two days to collect over $6,500 worth of dental hygiene products with one paid employee and one unpaid intern. Bin Donated’s “uber-intern” made 500 phone calls to get these dentists lined up; they expect at least 100 more to participate in October. These and other items will be distributed to a dozen or more charities that would otherwise have to buy these items or simply go without them. Each charity would not waste their own resources to try and make the calls, find the donors and then pick up the items on their own because it’s not their core competency nor is it cost effective.

Bin Donated also collects hygiene products from local hotels. “We’re partnered with seven hotels that donate an average of 150 pounds of 2 oz travel size products a month,” Kinnucan said. “Each pound of hygiene products is worth about $4 and has enough items to provide three people 3 separate showers.”

The barrels are picked up and dropped off all in less than an hour. Volunteers sort the items that are then packaged up and delivered to local charities for distribution. Each barrel is worth about $600 and it costs Bin Donated less that a ¼ of that to collect, sort and distribute the items to those in need.

Bin Donated has created an effective and efficient collection and distribution network that works. The homeless shelter does what it does best—caring for the homeless. Bin Donated does what it does best—collecting the items people need to take care of themselves.

As the Bin Donated collection and distribution network grows, so do the efficiencies with the service. Chicago has thousands of buildings and businesses to collect from all within a 10-mile radius. The charities it serves are also within this geographic area, which means lower transportation costs and quick delivery of donated items.

So the next time you see a blue barrel—or a man wearing one—don’t forget to drop something in there. You’ll be glad you did.

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