OPINION: Giving wisely makes all the difference

Opinion_Gale_Horton_Gay

With cooler temperatures upon us and the holiday season just weeks away, expect an uptick in the number of food drives and requests for donations from organizations that serve the needy.

It’s wonderful to give, especially when the giving is from the heart. However, we should think twice about what we’re giving and why.

I once served on the board of a day shelter for homeless women and children and the outpouring of donations from the community was always incredible, especially at Thanksgiving and the winter holiday season. Toys, books, clothes and household items would arrive at the shelter in large plastic bags, paper shopping totes and boxes. Some items were new, but many donations were used—a great many far exceeded the “gently worn” guideline the organization specified. It often took volunteers considerable time to sort through these donations, separating what was acceptable and discarding large quantities of items that should have gone in the dumpster in the first place.

I suspect that some individuals turn helping the less fortunate into an opportunity to clean out their pantries and closets, thinking more about themselves and less about the recipients.

Charitable organizations dedicated to those in need generally make it a priority to treat their clients with dignity and respect. They request new or gently used donations so the individuals receiving them can feel positive about the handouts.

Recently a news story circulated that someone donated a 46-year-old can of soup to a food bank. Was this a joke? Did someone really think that what should have gone in the trash years ago would be appropriate and acceptable for the needy?

The notion that beggars shouldn’t be choosy and that people who are down and out should accept anything regardless of its condition doesn’t show respect or compassion.

When deciding what to give, think about yourself and your family. Clothing and toys that are dirty, stained, ripped, out of fashion and worn out should not be passed on to others. Books that are in poor condition, have been written in extensively and have pages missing also should not be donated. Items with missing pieces, don’t operate properly or are hazardous should be trashed. Also check the expiration dates of food before giving it away. Any food product that has been opened or used is not appropriate for donation.

Sharing what we have to help others can be a wonderful experience especially if done thoughtfully. Take the time to select items that are in good condition and aren’t likely to make the recipient feel like a second-class citizen.

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