Charities depend on donations but not every gift is ideal

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Guidelines can make the difference

There’s something about the holiday season—Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa—that brings out charity in many people. In addition to giving to families and friends, individuals often give to food banks, buy gifts for those in need and donate used items to nonprofits.

It can be wonderful, but often in-kind donations of goods, clothing and more can be inappropriate, unsafe/unhealthy and cause problems for the agencies that receive them. Even purchases of new items can be problematic if the items aren’t what are needed most. For some organizations, bulk donations create a storage space challenge and require volunteers to sort through donations of used items to determine what’s appropriate and what’s not.

Many organizations restrict what they will accept and provide lists of preferred items.

Our House, a shelter for homeless families with locations in Decatur and Atlanta, no longer accepts donations of clothing, used toys or furniture due to lack of storage space, its website states.

Our House requests donations of cash, stock and securities.

“Every donation we receive—small or large—is a generous gift and critical to our success,” states the website. “Your financial contribution enables us to give families experiencing homelessness the tools, support and education they need to thrive.”

It also lists other items it accepts including baby wipes, toilet paper, lotion, white crib sheets, pacifiers and deodorant.

St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church on Tilson Road in Decatur operates a year-round food pantry.

According to Theresa Ivory, president of the church’s Greggs Pantry (named for a volunteer who gave his time to the pantry for nearly 30 years), said the pantry previously served 15-20 families a week but now some 50 to 75 families come to the pantry on Saturdays for boxes of food.

Ivory advises that people wanting to help their pantry should check to make sure the donated food is not past its expiration date and that cans are not dented. Donors should not take a “let’s clean out the closet” approach.

“If it’s something you don’t want, nobody else wants it,” she said.

Items that are close to the expiration date are accepted, Ivory said. However the individuals who the items are given to are told in advance.

She said most of her church’s parishioners buy food to donate and she’s only have one or two instances when an item was not acceptable.

“We don’t get a lot of things that have to be turned away. If you are upfront with people…you will usually get what you need,’ said Ivory.

When deciding what to buy to donate to a pantry, Ivory suggests thinking of canned goods that children like such as peas and carrots. Donating coupons is also a good idea as volunteers can use them when making purchases for the pantry.

Cash, however, can go a long way as Gregg’s Pantry buys food from the Atlanta Community Food Bank.

“We can buy tons of food for $100,” said Ivory.

The church also made up and gave out Thanksgiving baskets with traditional fixings of ham or turkey, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, cake, etc. for 100 families, 25-30 seniors or singles.

To be eligible for food from Gregg’s Pantry, individuals must prove they reside in zip codes 30316, 30317 and 30032.

At Mountain West Church in Stone Mountain, church members have been asked to bring specific items each Sunday in November for a food drive called “Get Your Can to Church.” Cereal was the highlighted food one Sunday. The church also provided lists of suggested food items such as tuna, canned fruits and vegetable, soup and cereal.

Goodwill of North Georgia has 60 stores, 58 donation sites and 13 career centers. They accept a wide range of items such as clothes, household goods, book, shoes, sporting goods, CDs. While they do not accept large appliances such as refrigerators and stove, they do take electronics such as televisions. Other items they don’t take include hazardous and building materials, paint, tires, mattresses, etc.

Profit from sales at Goodwill stores fund its programs to ready people for employment and help them find jobs.

Summer Dunham, director of public relations for Goodwill, said “gently used” are the best guidelines for donations.

“We know our donors give to us to help our mission of putting people to work,” said Dunham.

“We are so thankful for our donors,” she said. “They are making a difference in people’s lives here in our community and we are thankful for their support.”

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