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Are Charities Near You Accepting Used Goods?

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I received an interesting email from LA, who is in Virginia (not far from DC):

My office has been trying to give away “gently used” furniture. Over the last several weeks, we have been TURNED DOWN by Salvation Army, several women’s shelters, and other local charities because the furniture was USED. There’s some wear on it, but originally this stuff was $$$$. We’re not just trying to dump our trash on someone, but we are going to end up throwing it out because no one will take it.

We also had a little internal drive to get together books from home that we were going to donate to a women’s shelter, but they refused to take them because they were not NEW books. (Most of them were best-sellers that had been read once or twice max).

Goodwill turns away toys that are not NEW in original packing. This I could perhaps understand given the recall issues.

I also tried to donate some used computers, but the charity I contacted would not take them unless they had at least 3 gig RAM and over 100 gig hard drives. Heck, I’m using those! So the old ones have to go to landfills? Which contributes to yet another problem?

Is this crazy or what? This seems like such a colossal waste when everyone’s trying to pinch pennies and make do in this time and donations are decreasing. What’s up with these charities? Where did
“charity” go? Isn’t part of some of these charities to put people to work repairing and reselling these items?

In my neck of the woods, the local charities accept used goods. I’ve donated used items in good condition to most of the ones in our area with no problems. I also see used furniture at the thrift stores all of the time. Our area is pretty rural, though. I’m not sure if that could be part of the difference.

The only thing I could think of was trying Craigslist and noting that you are looking for a charity to donate used furniture to and seeing if you get any responses. I’m not sure how to verify the responses as charities, but maybe it is a way to find lesser-known charities that may be interested. I also love freecycle.org as a great way to give away stuff and receive free stuff.

I asked LA if I could publish this in case some of you had ideas of charities to try or even to vent that you are having the same difficulty with trying to donate used goods. Is this happening in more locations?


25 Comments

  • Reply Jin6655321 |

    I live in Northern VA (DC Metro area) and I know that not all branches of the Salvation Army and Goodwill takes donations. For instance, I think only the Manassas and Arlington SA stores accept donations. Maybe she called the wrong one?

    I imagine with lots of business failing, people losing their homes, etc. charities have seen a huge increase in furniture donation, and lack of space to store/display them. However, I don’t understand the refusal of books and toys.

    I can understand LA’s frustration since I had a similar experience. I work as a store manager for a clothing store. Corporate asked us to MOS (mark out of stock) thousands of $$$ worth of old, old, but new clearanced clothes to make room for new merchandise. One option we had (aside from destroying and tossing) was to donate it to charity- the only catch was that the charity had to pick them up and provide a receipt (to avoid managers “donating” to themselves).

    We spent a long time on the phone with both SA and Goodwill. The stores said we had to call the distribution centers, the distribution center said we had to call HQ, the HQ said we had to call the stores, etc. I was about to give up, but I felt sick at the thought of throwing away all those perfectly good clothes. Luckily, around that time, the SA had representatives at the mall collecting school supply/clothing donations for the Back to School period. They were more than happy to take our clothes.

  • Reply C.C. |

    I’ve heard stories of charities not accepting a lot of useful items like tables and dresses because they were not “new.” And I’m not sure if they mean new-new or if it looked too outdated and used. I don’t get it. Maybe they are targeting their stores to people who go to these stores to find THAT SOMETHING rather than to those who end up there because they don’t have much to spend..

    I kind of stopped donating to charities because there’s been many times when they never came to pick up the items. Now I sell them at secondhand stores for cash or just hand them down to younger cousins..

  • Reply Peg |

    We live on the coast of Mississippi (which in many ways is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina). Goodwill is the only charity that has returned – partially. They have a drop off – but no store – in our county. They will not take ANY electronics. We’ve started putting our stuff on freecycle. I’ve never had anything that I’ve listed stay up for more than 24 hours. People are still needing things, even more so now with the economy; with no where to get them. The added benefit is we get to meet more of our ‘neighbors’ this way and know that things we no longer need are getting immediate use.

  • Reply Mr Plasectomy |

    Another idea would be to see if any of the local churches are looking for any donations. Often times there are outreach programs through the church and people are looking for clothes, furniture, etc.

    When we were first married the church we attended donated furniture to us that the members were looking to get rid of anyway. It was great as newly weds as we didn’t have any money.

  • Reply Anne |

    Post something on craigslist, or look on craigslist for someone looking for furniture. One of my tenants recently got a used-but-very-highend set of matching washer and dryer.

    Also, a retired friend of mine has a hobby of taking old computers, fixing them up, and donating them to nursing homes, etc. so that elderly and poor people can have free internet access. He makes no money on it, it’s just something he does to stay busy and give back. Perhaps she can find someone like that near her (again, craigslist might be a starting point).

  • Reply Dedicated |

    Wow, I never heard of this. With my grandfathers passing we had a house full of furniture. It only took one call and the Salvation Army was out, loaded everything themselves onto their truck and drove away happy to have received it all.

    This is just strange.

  • Reply danielle |

    The only place I’ve ever heard of that didn’t accept used stuff was Texas Children’s Hospital, because of germ issues in used items.

    It’s possible that the Salvation Army and “women’s shelters” have too much donations on their hands. Everyone and their mother wants to help battered women, and everyone gives their things to the salvation army.

    Try to find places that not a whole lot of people want to help.
    I always donate to Value Village, which is a really, really cheap thrift store where I shop at. It’s not a “charity”, but I do want to support them. The things there are so inexpensive, that people can’t afford not to shop there.

  • Reply Colleen |

    I live outside DC in MD and am looking for used desks, bookcases, and dressers to furnish a 4 bedroom home. I would be glad to help LA with her problem!

  • Reply jc |

    If you can’t find a charity to donate to and the office furniture is still in good condition you could also try selling them to a used office furniture dealer. They will refurbish if necessary and resell the items. I don’t know of any in the DC area but there are quite a few in the Boston area.

  • Reply gwensmom |

    I used to work at a non profit.

    Thrift shops are no longer allowed to resell used toys because of recent safety problems.

    Not all non profits have programs that teach people how to repair things, so broken items are not of any use.

    Different charities have different circumstances, needs and capacities. Dealing with items they can’t use costs them a lot of money and time that they would rather spend on services for people. Outdated electronic equipment and used best sellers are a dime a dozen.

    Please keep trying to find your things a new home so they will not end up in a landfill. Call your local literacy council about the books. Our libraries collect used books and resell them. Or swap them among yourselves. Does your city have an agency to help small business startups? Maybe they could use your furniture. Craigslist and Freecycle are good ways to reach larger audiences. Lots of people put unwanted items on the curb with a “FREE” sign on it. And don’t forget local congregations- many have outreach programs either on site or through their denominations.

    Your post really has me thinking. When getting rid of things is difficult it must mean that we just have too much stuff.

  • Reply Nancy |

    You might check mental health facilities. I work in a crisis stabilization unit at the adult emergency services for the county. I’m sure these services are available in every state/county. Many of our clients come in off the streets and have only the clothes on their backs. We maintain a clothes closet of donations for those that need clothes, but we also accept donations of books, etc for the client’s use. Our clients don’t care about new when they don’t have a shirt or pair of socks or shoes.

  • Reply Stephanie |

    Try local nearby school districts. Our district has a teacher’s supply depot and they accept most everything. Teachers can be very clever in making old things new or repurposing. And most school administrators would love to spend budget dollars on the kids instead of replacing office or teacher office furniture.

  • Reply Margot |

    The person wrote: “but we are going to end up throwing it out because no one will take it.”

    That’s about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard! A few charities to you no, so you’re throwing nice furniture out?! What an insane use of resources. Just as your social network and I’m sure you’d find someone who wants it. Or advertise it on freecycle.org or craigslist and it will be gone in a couple of hours.

    DC has tons of nonprofits that will take donated items. I donate regularly to Martha’s Table in the U Street area. You have to drop your things off, but they take just about anything. There are many other examples. Most smaller nonprofits don’t have the trucks or labor at their disposal to pick up furniture and other large items, but that doesn’t mean they should get thrown out!

  • Reply Da Big D |

    The reason a lot of them can’t take it, is they have no room, or worse, they won’t be able to resell it. If they can’t do that, they have to pay for it to be destroyed. As for computers, if you don’t want them it means most people don’t want them either….
    Habbit for Humanity has a restore in Manassas you could call them up and see if they want it.

  • Reply Marcy |

    In Montgomery County MD the Friends of the Free Library have several retail resale locations (Rockville and Silver Spring come to mind) where they take all donations of reading material, cd’s, tapes, lp’s, vhs, dvds, comic books, magazines, etc. In fact, I just took an SUV-load to the Rockville location today! Good luck!

  • Reply Kristy @ Master Your Card |

    Wow, I’ve never heard of charities no accepting donations. Then again, I know that in my area, these same organizations struggle to even get donations, so an excess is never a problem. My credit union even spent time volunteering to help Goodwill break down old computers so that workers could repair them and they could sell them or donate them to schools. I suspect it’s a regional thing, and of course, supply and demand will play a part, but I would think these places would take books at the very least.

    In regards to books, you can always donate them to the local library or find a secondhand store to sell them to. At least with the library, it’s getting some community use.

  • Reply Pushing30 |

    I have encountered the same responses even up here in Canada. Just after the holidays, I noticed an article in the local newspaper that said the shelters were in dire need of women’s clothing. Noting the bags of clothing in my own closet, I called up the shelters and asked where to make the donation. They refused my offer because the clothing was not brand NEW. I was stunned. My clothing was in new condition but did not have tags. Regardless, they would not take it.

    If charities are being so selective, no wonder they have problems keeping up with demand! It’s very sad…that being said, I’ll continue to drop off my donations in the bins at the recycling centre. Usually the diabetes foundation picks up the clothing to be sold at Goodwill and so forth.

  • Reply Tammie |

    There is DAV disabled vetrans stores they will pick them up too I have never had aproblem with them not taking anything she might want to check them out. Here is the link http://www.dav.org/ good luck and the Salvation Army is not supposed to refuse is what my mom was told from one of their network stores around us. I think they are getting way to picky they are a donation store note new and used. JMO tho. Good luck I wish I was closer to her I would get some stuff for our church. She might want to try that to calling local churches they might know of places to take the items or might be able to place them for her

  • Reply CanadianKate |

    BTW: some people don’t like to offer things on Freecycle because occasionally, your stuff will be picked up by a reseller. Some Freecycles have rules against this, others don’t.

    My feeling is that the person who did the pick up and resell is making themselves a job. And they are selling to people at a reduced cost so those on restricted income still can save money by buying used. The only difference is a ‘name’ charity isn’t part of the equation.

    But my contribution to the process is helping one person make a living and another to get buy with less $$$. And we all stop things going to landfill.

    In Canada we don’t get a charitable receipt for donations of goods so I’m no further behind than had I given to SA or Goodwill.

  • Reply Kelly |

    One of the big place in NOVA for donating gently used furniture is the Habitat for Humanity stores. We always check there for things … they usually have office chairs, desks, lamps, etc., as well as building supplies or cabinets,etc. It’s fun to go check things out. Might want to have LA give them a try. There’s a big one in Alexandria and another smaller one in Fredericksburg. Not sure where else they are, but here’s a link:

    http://www.habitat.org/cd/env/restore_detail.aspx?place=46

  • Reply Rini |

    I live in the DFW area, and our local shelter has a policy that they don’t turn down ANY donations. They take whatever you’re willing to give, and then sort through and dispose of anything they can’t use themselves. If it’s a large item like furniture, they will even schedule a time to come to your house and haul it off for you.

  • Reply Emily C |

    Call the local churches of all denominations….they always have families that will gladly accept used furniture, and some electronics. Sometimes churches can put the giver together with a parishoner who owns a truck and move the furniture also. Place an ad on the bulletin board of your local grocery store. Don’t get discouraged….people still need.

  • Reply Pat |

    There is a website http://www.earth911.org that will tell you nearby spots to recycle what you have. Also, Best Buy just started a program to recycle all electronics. They do charge $10 for larger items but then give you a $10 giftcard in return. There are also resale shops that take furniture or if you live in the Columbus OH area there is a place called MAPP that is a nonprofit taking used furniture in good shape to help people who are homeless getting back on their feet or folks that have lost things in a fire, etc. Also, sometimes local church organizations may be able to direct you to charities that will take furniture or they may have thrift stores that will take it. Hope that helps!

  • Reply Brenda |

    I live in the South Florida area, and have also had problems with donating items to Salvation Army, Goodwill and the Red Cross. We have found that the Disabled Veterans take everything and are happy to do it. Just call them and they will tell you when the next pick up date will be. You do not have to be home, just leave by the door and driveway, they will pick it up and leave you a receipt…very easy thing to.

So, what do you think ?