Local thrift shops and nonprofit organizations notice an uptick in the dumping of donations after hours during the warm-weather months. Rained-on couches and boxes of clothing slept in by feral cats spell trouble for these agencies, which say donated items are appreciated when the rules are followed.
Exterior signage at Mandan’s AID Inc., which also has security cameras, and Bismarck’s Ministry on the Margins, which is considering installing outdoor video surveillance, has done little to deter after-hours dumping.
Left to the elements, the donations that aren’t already trash become trash, according to the agencies, which must deal with the costs and hassle associated with disposing of the items at the landfill.
“People want a place to dump their garbage. If you’re bringing in a moldy mattress that’s been laying in the garage for months that the dog’s been sleeping on … we don’t really need it. Don’t tell me the poor need it,” said Patti Regan, AID Inc. executive director, noting landfill disposal fees for furniture and appliances range from $7 to $20 per item. “How is that helping me?”
Ministry on the Margins, which runs a food and clothing pantry, recently had two couches dropped off after hours on two separate occasions. It doesn’t have the capacity to deal with furniture, according to Sister Kathleen Atkinson, the organization’s founder.
“Couches are not something we give out in our clothing pantry,” she said. “I know some people are doing it out of charity and goodness, but they need to stop and think of the mission. There are other places that take couches. Always respect the mission of the agency.”
Atkinson said she saw a cat jump out of a box of clothing that was dumped and left out overnight.
“I’m not going to ask volunteers to go through that type of stuff,” she said. “I’m not going to ask the people we serve to wear that type of stuff. I wouldn’t wear it, you wouldn’t wear it, why should they?”
Regan says donations that are dropped off after hours often get rummaged through by passersby, who freely take what they want and make a mess.
Garage sale “leftovers” also pose problems for the agencies.
AID Inc., which closes at 3 p.m. Saturday and is not open Sunday, is typically inundated Monday morning with garage sale goods no one wanted to buy. Regan said the piles are so high, sometimes, they can’t open their back gate.
When it comes to the leftovers, Atkinson asks people to stop and think.
“This is probably clothing that I don’t want, that my family members and friends don’t want either. Two to three days it’s been sitting outside and no one wants it,” she said. “Unsorted, it gets dropped off at an agency to sort … and invest volunteer time.”
Stoves, refrigerators and dishwashers are not accepted or sold at AID Inc., Regan said. Clean and gently-used clothing, shoes, outerwear, bedding and household goods are among the items needed, as well as day-to-day operating supplies like rolls of coins, printer cartridges and copy paper.
AID Inc., 314 W. Main St., Mandan, accepts donations 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday and Thursday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. Pick-ups can also be arranged.
Ministry on the Margins accepts only clean and gently-used clothing that’s currently in season.
“Clothing that a person could wear walking outside today,” Atkinson said, adding functional is best. “Not dress clothes and fancy high heels.”
Ministry on the Margins, 201 N. 24th St., Bismarck, also accepts kitchen utensils and small appliances that are in good, usable condition. Donations are received and processed 9-11:30 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 3-6:30 p.m. Thursday.
Both Regan and Atkinson said they don’t want to come off as ungrateful, and said they appreciate the community’s generosity.
“It’s hard out there,” Regan said. “There are a lot of people that are hungry, a lot of people in need.”