Melissa Norris has spent way too much time in a hospital. And as such, she has learned a few things. Since one cannot use a cellphone, a...

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Melissa Norris has spent way too much time in a hospital. And as such, she has learned a few things.

Since one cannot use a cellphone, a prepaid calling card comes in handy for borrowing someone’s desk phone. Because you’re constantly slathering on hand sanitizer, hand lotion is priceless. And because you refuse to leave your child’s bedside, a Power bar in one’s pocket can substitute for a meal.

Norris now stocks these items for the tote bags she and three other mothers put together for parents with critically-ill babies.

A Common Bond, the group Morris helped found, understands the difficulty of such a hospital experience. And the group realizes just how meaningful something like a roll of Lifesavers can be.

You know these items, the ones that, oh, beckon from near the cash register as your groceries get rung up. Or perhaps your priority is getting rid of items, such as your never-used sporting equipment or that empty filing cabinet just taking up space in the garage.

Now you can assign a specific purpose for all sorts of goods. Mundane goods, but in the right hands they can do a world of good.

Each year, local nonprofits send The Seattle Times their “wish lists.” Since money and volunteers are a given, these don’t get listed. Rather, it’s a call-out for men’s dress clothing (Center for Career Alternatives); soft candies and cosmetics (Leon Sullivan Health Care Center); a sewing machine and wooden coat rack tree (ReAct Theatre); outdoor non-plastic furniture (Seattle Tilth Association) and financial computer software (Youth in Philanthropy).

Take a look at the Wish List online — — and you’ll find nearly 450 nonprofits, organized in 17 categories: arts groups; international relief organizations, outdoors agencies. Each on a mission that you could assist.

A reminder: Call the agency contact number first to find out the best way to drop off donations.

“Anything helps,” says Yola Hauskins, whose WICS WINGS group provides grief support for children, teens and families in greater King County. Last year, the agency’s wish list included tickets to sports events and shows. No such tickets arrived. But donations of craft items, including crayons, came forth.

A Common Bond, started by four women in honor of the children they each lost, also didn’t garner any “wish-list” contributions. What they could use: those calling cards and that hand lotion, as well as disposable cameras and granola bars.

“We know what comes in handy,” says Norris, who spent six weeks in 2004 with daughter Charlotte at Seattle’s Children Hospital & Regional Medical Center before she died. A Common Bond tote bags are distributed at that hospital through social workers.

Last year, parent Roger van Oosten surveyed the teachers at Seattle’s Our Lady of the Lake school and submitted a list. What surprised him, he says, wasn’t just the fact that donations arrived, but that the donors didn’t do it for any sort of recognition.

“We asked for rhythmic equipment. And someone dropped off a drum kit. I got a phone call from an elderly couple who had a cassette player. And they sent one, with headphones. And they included a gift certificate for Barnes & Noble for $100.”

The couple didn’t want to leave an address so the school couldn’t send a thank-you note.

“Until I did this I didn’t realize there were people out there that want to do some good,” van Oosten says. “We just posted a need. And someone posted a gift.”

Florangela Davila: 206-464-2916 or