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Creative Donations

By Kim Robson:

I’m a big fan of Goodwill. Living in a tiny cabin in the woods, we have little to no storage for unwanted or unneeded items. Sure, I probably could sell some things on eBay or Craigslist, but that’s such a bother. It’s SO much easier to just donate it to Goodwill. The added benefit is knowing my donations are going to a good cause, providing career training, employment placement assistance, and other community-based programs for hundreds of thousands of people, such as veterans or the disabled, with barriers to finding employment.

They don’t take just clothes and furniture, either. Goodwill will happily accept kitchenware and small appliances, books and CDs, jewelry, throw pillows and blankets, handbags, sports and exercise equipment, prom dresses and Halloween costumes, and framed wall art.

Some other ideas for donating items:

Books and Music: Nursing homes, assisted-living centers and senior centers are always happy to accept books and music for their poorly funded libraries.

Toys and Children’s Books: Daycares and preschools tend to run under tight budgets. Donations of serviceable toys and books are always a godsend.

Pots and Pans: Leave old but serviceable pots and pans with the ranger at your favorite campground. One item novice campers often forget is cookware, or at least enough of it. Think of how thrilled some family will be when the ranger comes to the rescue with your donated old cast-iron Dutch oven.

Cars: There are loads of great charities that will accept that old clunker sitting in your driveway — running or not. Some of them include the Alzheimer’s Association, Disabled American Veterans, Freedom Guide Dogs for the Blind, PBS and the St. Vincent DePaul Center. Car Donation Wizard can help you find just the right cause to help, and you can get a tax write-off as well.

Broken Bicycles: Goodwill or a thrift store will take your old bike if it’s working; but if it’s not, try the local bike repair shop, where the parts can be used to repair someone else’s bike. Repaired used bikes are much cheaper for the poor or homeless to afford. Check out the Boise Bike Project.

Wedding Dresses: Sure, it holds sentimental value but, really, what are the odds that your daughter is going to want to wear it when her time comes? Much better to donate it to an organization that’ll find a new owner for it now, while it’s still in style. Brides Across America will take your wedding gown and donate it to a military bride in need.

There are a few things most charities won’t accept, for good reasons:

Underwear and swimwear are among them. But there are some organizations that will take those items and recycle or repurpose them. Have an old wetsuit? Suga Mats recycles old neoprene wetsuits and transforms them into yoga mats.

Many women in poor countries can’t afford expensive bras. Bra Recyclers takes clean, used bras, then they repair and spiff them up before donating the brand-new-looking bras to women in need.

Bras For a Cause accepts bras, lingerie and swimwear, and donates them to breast cancer survivors, homeless shelters and other women’s organizations around the world. Even if your item can’t be repaired, the material is used to make works of art, which are then sold, with the profits going back to breast cancer organizations. They also accept wigs, prosthetic breast inserts, and post-mastectomy bras for breast cancer survivors.

Sneakers: Nike Grind transforms used running shoes into materials for 71% of Nike footwear, incorporating yarns and trims into premium jerseys and shoes.

The MORE (Modular Organic Regenerative Environments) Foundation takes gently-used athletic shoes (they’ll even repay your shipping cost) and uses them to benefit small villages throughout Africa. With every pair donated, MORE is able to plant one ton of carbon-grounding trees and train poor farmers in sustainable agroforestry, such as growing and maintaining gardens, orchards and clean drinking water wells.

But where to donate REALLY out-of-the-ordinary items? Below are a few ideas:

Prescription Eyeglasses: Everyone’s heard of the Lion’s Club. But did you know their mission is to collect used eyeglasses and donate them to anyone in need? They have to be in usable condition, though. If a Lion’s Club won’t take your pair, try the local homeless shelters in your area.

Cosmetics Containers: We don’t recommend recycling used makeup because of bacteria concerns. But several companies will take back your empties and recycle them for you. Retailers LUSH, Mac, and Aveda all have recycling programs.

Building Materials and Hardware: Habitat for Humanity accepts a wide range of materials for donation, using them to build simple, decent and affordable homes for the less fortunate so they can live in dignity and safety. Donatable materials include

  • Large appliances
  • Blinds
  • Building materials
  • Cabinets
  • Carpet
  • Closet doors
  • Countertops
  • Doors
  • Fencing
  • Flooring
  • Furniture
  • Landscape items
  • Lighting & Electrical
  • Molding
  • Unopened paint
  • Plumbing
  • Sheet metal
  • Tile
  • Tools
  • Windows

About Kim Robson

Kim Robson lives and works with her husband in the Cuyamaca Mountains an hour east of San Diego. She enjoys reading, writing, hiking, cooking, and animals. She has written a blog since 2006 at kimkiminy.wordpress.com. Her interests include the environment, dark skies, astronomy and physics, geology and rock collecting, living simply and cleanly, wilderness and wildlife conservation, and eating locally.

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