December 2, 2012
Several times a year, I clean out my closets and gather serviceable clothing and household linens to donate. Then, in spite of my intentions, I end up driving around with the stuff in my trunk because I have no idea where to bring them. (I've got two bags in there right now.)
This time, rather than dropping the clothes in one of those supermarket parking lot collection bins of last resort (more about those later), I decided to check with some local agencies for easy ways to get my stuff to where it can do the most good.
Turns out where you make your donations depends on what you want done with your things.
Some agencies will give your donations directly to people in need. Other organizations will resell your items and use the money for programs and services. Some agencies will pick up, and some won't. Some charities organize neighborhood collections and send out postcards when they're going to be in a particular area. Get a notice, put your stuff out on the curb on the appointed day at the appointed time, no fuss, no muss.
Richard Porth, president of United Way of Connecticut, says anyone with items to donate can visit http://www.211ct.org, click on the "Search for Services" link, enter a ZIP code or town and enter the phrase "Donation Services" in the search field.
"People will get a whole menu of options," says Porth.
Click on "Clothing Goods," for example, and you'll get a list of shelters, nonprofit thrift shops, senior centers and other charities in your area, along with what each one needs and accepts. If you don't have a computer, you can call 211 for the information.
The Connecticut Council for Philanthropy has put together Ways to Share…A Holiday Wish List. The online searchable database (www.CTphilanthropy.org) lists the holiday needs of children, families and adults served by 256 Connecticut nonprofits.
Entries provide descriptions of the nonprofit organization and its work, the population it serves, contact information and a list of special items or volunteer needs. Most of the requests on the list are for new items, but some organizations are looking for used, good condition furniture, household items, bedding and clothing. You can search by town, type of service provided and by organization.
Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters partners with area Savers stores to accept donations of clothing, household linens, toys, books, furniture and other goods. You can schedule a pickup at your home or drop things off at Savers' stores.
"People can call the Hartsprings Foundation, which is our pickup service, or they can bring their items to any Savers store. Savers sells the merchandise and sends us money each month," says Darlene Roberts, director of institutional advancement.
Many nonprofit thrift stores, such as FAVARH in Canton, accept in-season clothing and house wares. (FAVARH, in Canton, provides services to adults and children with intellectual disabilities. Check http://www.favarh.org.) You can also check with your house of worship to see if they collect goods and clothing for those in need.
Donations of clothing, household items, and furniture are accepted at some Salvation Army Thrift Stores or you can schedule a pick up by calling 1-800-SA-Truck. The Salvation Army website (www.use.salvationarmy.org) includes information on what is and what isn't accepted.
When you donate to a charitable organization, you can get a receipt for your taxes. The Internal Revenue Service requires donors to value items that have been donated when filing tax returns. Goodwill, Salvation Army and other organizations have lists of commonly donated items and values on their websites and some tax preparation software programs, like TurboTax, have valuation guides.
Which brings us to those collection bins in supermarket parking lots. While they look like an easy way to donate used clothes and household linens, most are placed by for-profit recyclers, who bundle donated items and sell them overseas. If you want your items to go to a charity or nonprofit, pass them by.
I'm driving my bags to the collection station at the new Goodwill campus at 315 New Park Avenue in Hartford. Their drive-through is open seven days a week and you don't even have to get out of your car. (Hours and information at http://www.goodwillct.org or 860-278-5890.)
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