Saturday, September 10, 2005

Donation etiquitte rant, part two

A fellow wino and I drove out to the Red Cross sponsored donation drop-off center here in Austin, responding to urgent requests to help in sorting out the mountains of donated clothing unloaded by Austin residents. While sorting clothes isn't as sought-after volunteerism as actually getting to hand out food and care kits directly to the evacuees, someone's gotta get it done.

Shortly after the announcement that a parking garage would serve as a donation drop-off for the Red Cross, the papers reported the line of cars waiting to hand over their carload was an hour long. The volume of donated goods was so overwhelming that the donation drop-off point had to close in order to process it all.

On our arrival, we first noticed rows of crutch handles peeking over the concrete wall of the four-storey garage where they'd been sorted away from the piles of walkers, canes, portable toilets, and other home health supplies taking up several parking spaces. Beyond them were pallets straining under bulging garbage bags, wrapped in plastic, lining the walls of the garage, all the way up into the next level. It was an encouraging sight, both because the majority of the donations had been wrapped up and were ready to go so quickly, and that the generosity of Austinites seemed so obvious.

But as always, mass donations are a mixed bag. As Steve and I joined the others in making sense of the remaining bags of clothes, we quickly got to the underbelly of generosity: while some people had thoughtfully sorted gently used, clean clothing by size or gender, others had stuffed paint-stained T-shirts and worn out, frayed, threadbare crap into garbage bags and called it a day.

Here's the deal, folks: fashion preferences aside, if you wouldn't pay a buck at a yard sale for it, it is garbage. If you've justified cleaning out your drawers of old, dingy clothing because you figure beggars can't be choosers, think again. One of the myriad losses among the survivors of Katrina or any disaster is dignity. Keep this in mind when choosing gently used clothing for donation. Tossing out your unwanteds is a lousy way to say you care.

Taj's Top Ten Things NOT To Donate, Ever:

1 ANYTHING STAINED. If you don't walk around in it, don't donate it. Cut it up and dust your entertainment system with it.

2. Torn or threadbare bedclothes and towels. Donate these to your local pet shelter to comfort animals.

3. White blouses or tee shirts with two-inch yellow sweat stains under the arms. I know this falls under 'anything stained' but people miss this one. They're gross. Toss 'em.

4. Unwashed clothes. Honestly, people.

5. USED UNDERWEAR. Buy a new pack of undies, for fuck's sake. No one wants your stained tighty-whiteys, laundered or not!

6. Off-season clothes. Yes, the seasons turn and these things will eventually be needed. But in situations of critical, immediate needs, please try to focus your donations on what people need right now. A thick, black wooly sweater is useless in Texas heat.

7. Broken toys. I watched this litte girl at the Berger Center try to navigate the parking lot on a Barbie scooter with a wickedly loose handlebar, and it was not a heartwarming sight. Either fix them or toss them.

8. Board games with pieces missing, or with unsecured boxes. The first is obvious. But it's also important to remember that a kid's board game with lots of little pieces and cards and such is going to end up in the trash if the box is torn or crushed. Put a bit of tape on the box to make it less vulnerable during rough transport.

9. Cheap, crumpled belts. God, these got on my nerves. You know those lame belts you get when you buy women's pants at the mall? They're made of cardboard, or something, bending and tearing at the slightest pressure. Toss 'em. They end up in huge piles beside the sorted clothes and are nothing but a pain in the ass.

10. Shit that you didn't need, either. Tea cozys. Leg warmers. Broken gagets. Soap dishes. Non-immediate need donations are idiotic in this situation, and are usually things people don't need until after they've settled in to their new lives. Save this stuff for the yard sale.

Most important of all, when a crisis strikes, pay attention to local news and notices to find out what is really needed. It's great that you found some decent, clean clothes to share, but don't stop there. Spend a little cash at the Dollar General and pick up items listed by organizations as immediate needs: clean socks and underwear, specific types of food, water, flashlights, over-the-counter meds, or whatever. Use your natural American Consumer impulses and shop!



Blogger vlb5757 said...

I found your blog via twists and turns through other blogs. I just read this whole thing about donating and laughed out loud. I have to say that I am probably a guilty offender of the wrong kind of items for dontating. lol! I loved the entry about the kinds of couples who come to look for wine. I am not sure how my hub and I fit into these, but I am sure we fall in there somewhere. This is why I shop for the wine alone.

I am a misplaced native Texan and sure miss the I-35 life. I am from Temple. My brother goes to Austin for business all the time and tells me where he eats. Just pisses me off, since I never get there anymore! It's just sibling jealousy.

Great blog and I will come back and read more again.

5:54 AM  

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