By Beth Kormanik Posted January 21, 2013, 4:20 PM EST
WASHINGTON, D.C. More than 10,000 volunteers—including Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden—came to the D.C. Armory Saturday to assemble care kits for the military as part of the National Day of Service.
The event, sponsored by Target, commemorated both the presidential inauguration and Martin Luther King's birthday by assembling more than 100,000 kits of personal care items in five hours. Caravents produced the experience, which was an official inauguration event, alongside internal Target planners.
The armory was divided into several sections. Volunteers assembled the eight-item kits in one area and wrote letters to troops in another section. The finished kits went to a “working warehouse” within the armory and immediately were loaded into semitrucks bound for California, where the nonprofit Operation Gratitude will send them to troops. Moving out the inventory quickly was important because the armory had a quick turnaround for other inauguration-related events taking place that weekend.
Using the armory as the venue worked on practical and symbolic levels, said Caravents owner and C.E.O. Cara Kleinhaut. “It's amazing that the mission of the armory and this event fit together. We all liked that,” she said. “Logistics-wise, this is what we need to execute something of this size.”
The event also featured branded photo areas where volunteers could pose and share images on social media networks. The photos had preloaded content listing all sponsor and partner handles, hashtags, and a tagline.
Caravents had a template for the event from its work on Target's Party for Good in 2010, when 4,000 guests packed meal kits for the Food Bank for New York City. But the D.C. event was a larger undertaking. One challenge in managing the massive amount of volunteers was creating directional signage and branding everything from banners to water bottles with the event identity the firm developed. “It's not about flashy production,” Kleinhaut said. “It's about clean branding signage.”
Adding a green element to the event, environmental waste management firm Eco-Set handled the recycling, composting, and waste management effort. Kleinhaut noted that the event had a carbon-neutral footprint.