Gigi Gillie, left, and Alex Taylor at the top of Mount Pilchuck at the old fire lookout tower. Photo courtesy of Alex Taylor

Gigi Gillie, left, and Alex Taylor at the top of Mount Pilchuck at the old fire lookout tower. Photo courtesy of Alex Taylor

Mercer Island’s Taylor teams up with friend to launch Provide Now

Nonprofit is helping those in need.

With each success, Mercer Island’s Alex Taylor and her friend Gigi Gillie know there’s even more left to accomplish.

It’s eye-opening when the Provide Now nonprofit founders drop off much-needed items like food and treats to the Seattle Animal Shelter and 10 Chromebooks to Northwest Education Access (NWEA) students via donations and a fundraiser, Taylor said. They feel good about what they’re doing, Gillie noted, and Taylor added that there’s many more nonprofits and agencies in need of their help.

So, they keep rolling along their path of kindness.

According to Taylor, Provide Now’s mission is to promote transparent donations of material items to equip nonprofits and communities with the resources necessary to thrive. Thus far, they have secured nearly $20,000 in gift-in-kind donations to 10 community organizations and agencies in King County.

“We are a very small nonprofit but we believe that when you combine a lot of small positive actions together, a powerful and meaningful impact can happen,” said Taylor, noting that after receiving a recent grant, Provide Now acquired eight more Chromebooks and a dozen noise-canceling headsets with microphones for NWEA students as they study virtually from home.

Taylor’s friend Savanna Willis works at NWEA (formerly known as Seattle Education Access) and suggested they do a fundraiser in April to help their students, who received the initial batch of Chromebooks as a result of that successful event.

A month earlier when COVID-19 hit, Gillie and Taylor pivoted from their initial marketplace model to launch Provide Now as a crowdfunding platform to raise money to secure and deliver hand sanitizer, toilet paper, masks and gloves to homeless and housing shelters in the Seattle area.

It was a stressful time raising funds, locating vendors with the items and making the deliveries, but it was satisfying to see everything come to fruition, they said. From March through May, they ran two fundraising campaigns focusing on the aforementioned items, and then revisited their marketplace model and relaunched in July.

Gillie and Taylor connected while they were students at the University of Washington and they graduated in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Gillie earned a degree in informatics, and Taylor earned a degree in business administration. Taylor grew up on Mercer Island, attended elementary school at St. Monica School and graduated high school from Seattle Prep before heading off to UW. Her mom still lives on the Island.

Snohomish’s Gillie obtained the idea for Provide Now from her older sister, Evelyn, a founding engineer for Flexport, a software-focused freight forwarder. When Flexport imported crates of items from overseas, they sometimes weren’t sure where to send the products; maybe there was a way to distribute them to nonprofits and organizations in need.

“I felt strongly about the idea,” said Gillie, who eventually contacted Taylor to join her on the mission to launch a nonprofit in that vein, and they describe Provide Now as a gift registry for nonprofits and organizations. “So, when (Taylor) jumped aboard, things really started moving.”

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