Monday, May 16, 2011

Donate from your heart. AKA Rules for donating to a cause.

I read this article yesterday on Yahoo.  In general, it was talking about receiving broken toys and used underwear as part of the donations to the tornado victims. 

How often people use donation services as a clearing house to get rid of unwanted junk items.  I'm trying to think of a particular recent example, but it fails my memory.  What I can tell you is that I've heard stories of Goodwill donation trailers crawling in bed bugs because people have donated infested items to them.  I know that when I was directing VBS at our church, we were taking donations to send off to an orphanage in Haiti.  Among many fantastic items, we received extremely used coloring books with only a page or two remaining that were colorable, broken crayons and a lot of pens and markers that did not work.  At school, I help with the annual canned food drive to benefit the local food bank.  We had to toss over 70 donated items that were expired.  Some expirations went as far back as 1999.   Each year, my husband and I oversee and handle a collection of health and beauty items for our local homeless shelter.  We've received 1/4 filled bottles of old and discolored shampoo and coagulated, half-used samples from hotels.  I spend at least an hour each collection going through items and pitching things that are not able to be donated.

Here are some simple rules to donating:
-  Think of the person that you are donating these items to.  Sure, you may not know that person or a particular face, but you can think of someone you might think would be the recipient.
-  Now think of that person as someone in need from YOUR family.  Is the item that you are willing to donate something that you would give to your family?
-  Better yet, think of Christ standing right next to you.  You know, in the flesh.  How do you feel about that donation now?
-  Is it clean? 
-  Are all the parts necessary for said donation item included to make it work?  If not, is it something that in a partial state, would it be considered as fully usable?  (Legos, bowls to a stand mixer, but the mixer hit the ditch a while ago . . .) 
-  If donating toys, if your child was the recipient, would you be thrilled?
-  Are books unmarked and in readable condition without having been soaked in water or some other mysterious liquid?
-  Are plates/kitchen items . . . chipped?  Does it matter if they are?  Would you consider it safe to eat off of or from?
-  Does it have an expiration date?  If so, has it passed?  Food does not have an indefinite shelf life, unless you are speaking of honey and real maple syrup (both kept under reasonable conditions, of course.)

Envision your family receiving the goods.  Think of the recipients.  Especially in light of disaster victims, they've lost everything, if not almost all.  They didn't ask for a hurricane, flood or tornado to damage or destroy their home.  Many of these people are working with nothing. 

My sister and I were talking about yard sale items.  I will not put items out for a yard sale that haven't been properly laundered or cleaned.  Dishes are sparkling, game boxes have parts in bags that have been counted and labeled on the top.  Last year, I had a game board to our Wheels on the Bus game that was ripped.  I wrote it on the box.  It could have simply been repaired with tape, but I mentioned it and sold it cheap.  Turns out that a grandma was just looking for the bus and not all the other parts to go with.  After I'm done with the yard sale, the items go directly to Goodwill.  I've checked them, labeled them and feel good enough to pass them on.

Last year, I took part in a uniform swap at the local church up the street.  Even there, while a swappable thing and not by donation, I received a beautiful, but milk-stained shirt.  Through my laundressing powers, the shirt was brought back to life and all was well, but why would you take dirty children's clothing items to swap for the next size up?  I don't get it.  The uniform swap is for everyone and if you have nothing to donate, pieces are 75 cents a piece.  There are folks who only go to the uniform swap for their kids.  Believe me, they don't want to purchase items with marker or juice stains all over them, and knees in pants are an important thing.

In sum, I will not donate or even yard sale/swap something that I wouldn't consider owning myself.  In regard to donating dirty underwear, I don't know if "dirty" should have been replaced with the statement of "previously used and laundered" or if it was truly "soiled."  I have a general policy not to donate personal items such as that, with the exception of handing down bathing suits and K-'s laundered, but pre-owned panties to her friend-- the daughter of a good friend of mine.  I would not pass them on to anyone else, but my friend knows that I take exceptional care of the laundry and any clothing items I pass on to A- that may have a spot, I post-it note it on the actual item.  A- is a bit of a well-known Messy Bessy, so I know that those clothing items would be play clothes for her anyhow.  Still, I get from the comments that some people feel that something is better than nothing.  In cases, that may be true.  Underwear that have been pre-owned are one of those things that can kind of sanitarily creep people out, though.  That's why bathing suits come with those weird sticky strips in them.  (Not that I really see those as doing much of anything.)

Still, how do you feel about the complaint of items being donated that are potentially soiled and partial?  We hate to waste things, but then again, when is a partial or soiled donation okay?


Rach said...

The idea that someone would donate trashed, unusable items saddens me. I've been taking LOADS of items to the thrift store, and I can assure you, they are all clean, neat and in working order. Okay, so I've donated a set of dishes that may have had a chipped plate, but that's the worst of my sins, I promise.

Yes, we want to think we're doing something good by donating, and that we're reducing waste by giving away instead of tossing, but how often do those items wind up tossed anyhow?

I wonder if people just donate everything and leave the tossing up to someone else to salve their conscience. Hm.

Jessie hands down Ella's old undies, and I have no problem with that. However, I don't think I'd like to be getting panties from the thrift store...:shudder:

ChupieandJ'smama said...

I cleaned out the coat closet last week and today I dropped off 3 bags of goods to GoodWill. Since I was there I thought I'd run in and see if I could find a table (I'm making an in home alter). They didn't have a table but when I turned around I saw Men's Underwear hanging off the hanger. Now they looked OK, but I have to tell you, I COULD NOT buy used underwear...I don't care how little money I had. They weren't in plastic so I'm assuming they were used. It never even occurred to me to donate underwear... who thinks of that?