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Leaving donations of goods at shuttered sites causes headaches for nonprofits and their thrift stores

COURTESY PHOTO: GOODWILL INDUSTRIES OF THE COLUMBIA WILLAMETTE - This 'donation' was left outside the Gresham Goodwill store this week. The nonprofit now has to clean up this mess and dispose of the ruined items. And, it does not accept car seats.

Please — just don't. People confined to their homes are cleaning closets and basements and some are leaving items at nonprofit organization's shuttered donation sites and thrift stores. But the charities want you to know, this is the opposite of help.

"It's just not safe or effective," said Dale Emanuel, public relations manager for Goodwill Industries of the Columbia Willamette, which has 93 sites in 24 counties.

"We're, first, thanking people for their kindness," Emanuel said. "When we can receive your donations, we're going to be there."

The Salvation Army's Gresham donation site and one in Tigard are open, but they also don't want things left on site unless someone is there to take it.

"We ask the public if there is not an attendant present, please do not leave your donation unattended," said Alexa Morris, director of communications and marketing for The Salvation Army Cascade Divisional headquarters.

Goodwill and Salvation Army have both shuttered their retail stores, many donation sites and other operations to comply with the effort to fight the novel coronavirus pandemic. Goodwill has laid off 2,632 local employees.

The COVID-19 virus has killed 19 Oregonians and sickened hundreds more. Gov. Kate Brown issued orders closing schools until at least April 28, and shutting non-essential businesses, to mandate "social distancing."

During the pandemic closures, donations left outside a thrift store often draw people who don't have the best intentions. Sometimes people will come by and rummage through unattended donations, scattering things all over the store grounds and even through neighborhoods. Donations that could have been sold to fund programs are ruined.

Some folks also leave "donations" that are essentially garbage because they don't want to pay hauling fees to have the debris removed. Goodwill has posted signs asking people not to leave unwanted stuff.

PMG PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - These unsable but no longer needed goods will wait until Goodwill opens its doors for donations.

The charities may want to brace themselves. With people confined to quarters, many idled from their jobs, folks are cleaning closets, garages and basements generating piles of clothing, toys and other goods to be donated. And the charities likely to receive the goods welcome them and seemingly aren't worried about being buried in an avalanche of stuff when they reopen.

"Each year, we see an uptick in donations around this time as a result of spring cleaning. Our staff will be ready to handle any influx once restrictions have been lifted," said Salvation Army's Morris.

Emanuel also said that donations of goods often decline in a recession. Economists predict a deep and perhaps lengthy recession as a result of all the businesses forced to close due to the pandemic, which could curb donations.

"Given the current environment, we remain optimistic," said Emanuel, who, like many others, is not willing to predict the future. "We'll be puzzling over this soon."


Still open

Two area Salvation Army donation centers are accepting donations of clothing and household items from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days per week.

The Gresham donation center is at 2990 S.E. Hogan Road and the Tigard location is at 11847 S.W. Pacific Highway.

Will they take it?

Many nonprofit organizations have retail stores that sell new and used donated items. All have restrictions on what they will accept. Please check the web page or call the charity you are considering to see if they can accept your donation. Would someone really want to buy that paint splattered sweat shirt?

Goodwill, for example, lists more than 25 items on its web page ( that it can't accept, including air conditioners, metal file cabinets and swing sets.

The Habitat for Humanity ReStores accept a variety of building materials and home goods, but, for example, won't take a refrigerator or freezer that is more than 10 years old. Check out ReStore's guidelines at:

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