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Giving charitably

SVdP Thrift Store (photo:

I’m taking a wee break from my collection posts because I wanted to write about something that’s more important this week.

A few years ago I wrote a newspaper feature about a local secondhand shop called St.Vincent de Paul. It’s an interesting place. It’s set up to accept donations of used goods, many of which are then sold at an affordable price in their little store, but I bet more people don’t know that certain people in need – referred by their church – can walk in with a note from their pastor to do some shopping and not have to pay anything for the items they pick up. The manager gave me an example of a single mom who’d left an abusive marriage. She finally got her own apartment but was lacking in all the basics, everything from linens to can openers and dishes. She had the opportunity to come in and furnish her apartment with the goods at St.Vinnie’s.

The manager stressed the need for donations of these kinds of gently used household items, heavy emphasis on the gently used. He was quite dismayed in regards to the poor quality of donations some people left in the donation bins. He told me about disgusting stained mattresses that are regularly donated. He didn’t think the person who donated a stained mattress would want to sleep on a similarly stained mattress, so what makes them think a poor person would want to sleep on one too?

Sadly, many donations just end up in the garbage bin, because that’s what they are… garbage.

Some of you might remember my community bookshelf idea. I first wrote about it here, but to summarize, I had an idea that our local rec centre should have a free lending library. That was a couple years ago, and I have to say, it’s been a great success. I drop by every few weeks to check up on it. The books are always different, which is great, because it means they are circulating and donations are coming in on a regular basis.

I brought a huge box of great books the other day, ones that were donated from a holiday bazaar. It was a mix of contemporary fiction (i.e. James Patterson novels) and bright board books for pre-readers. As the person who initially helped set up the community bookcase I take it upon myself to sort the books and weed out items that don’t really belong there. I’m talking about worn textbooks for ancient computer programs that can’t possibly be in use anymore (Microsoft Publisher ’93 for Dummies anyone?) and paperbacks with pages torn out of them. I pitch these into the garbage without a trace of remorse.

Who would donate half a book? And why?

If you’re preparing a donation of secondhand goods to charity, please look everything over with a critical eye before you drop it off. Is that shirt stained or torn? Is that appliance clean, and in good working order?  Put yourself in the shoes of someone in need. Would you want to read half a book?

Mother of two imps and wife of one. Writer, photographer, pro blogger, adventure-seeker, Ottawaholic, social media evangelist and lover of STUFF. Also known as @missfish on Twitter.

2 Responses to “Giving charitably”

Brenda A

Well written and to the point. It is too bad that common sense does not apply to all people! Donating your good condition items helps so many folks in need. Nobody wants garbage.



I recall when a lady came into my charity shop asking where she could unload her donations. I had a funny feeling about this and offered to come out and show her where to park. She had a whole truckload of broken furniture, old computer parts, rusted bicycle, broken pots, etc etc. When I told her we could not take this donation, she got irate with me and asked me where she could drop all this “junk.” (I am thinking…THE DUMP?)

The bigger charity stores like the Salvation Arny pay up to $100,000.00 a year in dumping fees alone. It is quite sad that otherwise well meaning folks treat a charity store a garbage dump. Also, consider that there are real people in the sorting rooms, often elderly, handicapped, who are volunteers that open boxes and ready the merchandise for sale. This involves cleaning, repairing, mending, steaming, ironing, tagging, hanging, pricing, etc.

But then there are the folks who wash and fold the clothes they are to donate, pack them neatly in boxes, will wash household items, etc. Bless their souls!

Remember that what you donate is turned into cash for the charity of your choice. Ask yourself if you would buy it in the condition it is in? If the answer is no, please recycle it in a responsible way.

Thanks for your article.


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