I work for a nonprofit, charitable organization that takes donations of clothes, housewares, furniture and electronic equipment to sell and consequently fund programs and services for people who are in dire straits and unfortunate circumstances. These programs include job training, education, and employment opportunities within our industries.
Since most of our funding comes from the sale of donated items, we have posted on our website and on signs within our stores that state “Give What You Would Give a Friend”.
In far too many cases, from the donations we receive, I would hate to be that donor’s “friend”…and would hate even more to be the donor’s enemy. For every donation of clean, well-kept items of clothing, shoes, and housewares, we get at least 10 donations of what I call, for lack of a more accurate term, garbage. And because they are “donating items of value to a charitable organization”, they are entitled to use these “gifts” as a tax write off.
I have processed donations of designer clothes, purses, shoes and jewelry; also antique, vintage, or collectible items. It gives me a warm feeling, knowing that these donors are giving of themselves and their possessions. On the other hand, there are people who bring in boxes, bags, and tubs of broken, moldy, smelly, and dangerous stuff that will never sell, then demand a receipt for their “donation”. I will not resell these items. They are garbage, and belong in a dumpster, not in a donation box. Some of the items that have come in are:
1) An old cast from a broken arm
2)An unopened dual-pack can of Lay Choy Chow Mein, expiration date 1999. A crushed packet of strawberry poptarts. A half bottle of castor oil.
3)Several dozen pair of dirty thong underwear.
4) A sealed box of clothing, which, upon opening, proved to have been used by a cat for a litter box for about 5 years.
5) Old rusty pans, some with food still crusted on them.
6)A Fry Daddy deep fat fryer, including rancid fat. Donor must have fried gym socks and fish heads before donating.
7)Brand new electric frying pan, still sealed in box. Upon opening, dozens of cockroaches pour out.
8 ) Complete enema kit, quite obviously used.
And the list goes on. People bringing in things that didn’t sell at their yard sales ( umm…why would you think we could sell them when you couldn’t?), cleaning out grandma’s house, keeping the good stuff and donating boxes of old magazines, coupons, and half-used bottles of Milk of Magnesia; moving to a different state and donating mud-encrusted clothing and shoes. One donor said she was moving and donating all the shoes she couldn’t find a mate for, and all the tupperware lids she had that were likewise orphaned.
Sure, we recycle just about everything…clothes that are soiled, torn or in need of buttons are sent to another agency who cleans and repairs them, then resold or donated to other charitable organization. Stuffed toys are sold and processed into carpet padding. Metal, cardboard, and old t-shirts and towels are recycled. But we are not a recycling center. Nor are we a landfill or town dump. Dealing with and processing the garbage left by donors takes time away from our employees that could be used for more important jobs, like restocking goods and clothing, keeping the store neat, tidy, and organized, and making sure the people who shop there get the best possible items for the lowest possible price.
I would suggest to all who are out there looking at bags and boxes of stuff they need to get shed of to think, “Would I give this to a friend?” or “Would I buy this be proud to say I got it at a thrift store?” If they would only give it a thought before donating it, we wouldn’t be having to deal with blood-stained clothes, dirty broken dishes, or an old arm cast.