Is It Still Better To Give?

Some Restrictions Apply.

Everyone knows donating your old clothes is fine; just find the nearest bin. However, what if you are trying to donate something larger or you are uncertain they will be able to use your gift? Seeing old furniture discarded on streets and in alleys I felt sure these people just didn’t bother to call someone to donate these items.

This is where I began to get annoyed, and I found out I’m not alone in this feeling.

I phoned the Salvation Army after Larry and I moved to our new condo. We had placed several items for sale and a few were still leftover. My mother had taught me that things I didn’t need were usable to someone else. And that there were people somewhere in the world who would be glad to have a beaten down old couch or some nice clothes I was tired of. It was just a question of making some calls. Or was it? Let’s look at the new rules of donation.

1) Expect delays getting through on the telephone to most charity organizations or women’s shelters. If you get through right away, consider yourself lucky.
2) When I called the Salvation Army I tried several times before finally connecting to a real, live person. I was asked what quadrant of Calgary I live in. “The south west,” I answered. She replied, “my next pick-up there is the 28th of the month.” Considering the present date was the 14th I was shocked. The new furniture was a great fit in our puny livingroom (it’s a very small condo). But, now I had to wait two weeks with extra furniture sitting around. Sigh!

Which brings us to rule number two.

3) Expect a long list of acceptable and unacceptable items.
“We don’t take metal desks,” the woman on the phone insisted tersely. “Uh:uh why?” I whined meekly.
“They aren’t on our list.”
“But this is still good and :ummm:someone must need a desk.”
“Oh yes, we take desks:but not metal ones.”
This was intensely frustrating.
“Alright,” I sighed. “I have a washing machine.”
“We don’t take washing machines.”
“What?! With all those mothers out there trying to do their baby’s laundry?”
The Salvation Army lady sighed, “We don’t have the space ma’am.”
A work buddy heard all about our donation woes and told us he had called a woman’s shelter or organization and tried to donate saleable, professional grade machines the group could sell. He told us that a woman sighed that they “didn’t know if they could spare the time to pick them up unless it included a financial donation.”
What is going on here? It strikes me that these people are behaving in a very picky manner. While I sympathize with the space problems and the need for finances, I truly believe that some of these non-profit groups have not found the best way to assist some of the needy.
I recently began looking for a way to “put to use” our old cell phone. It has a brand new battery, and is perfectly usable. It’s just old and clunky. Larry found out on a newsgroup that women’s shelters can use your old cell phone to give to women in danger. The inactive-account phones can always get a 911 phone call through in an emergency. It sounded like a great idea! So, once again I got on the telephone trying to track down the appropriate agency.
4) Expect the person on the phone to “enlighten” you about the list of procedures for women’s shelter donations.
First, I couldn’t figure out where to phone. Then I had trouble getting a person to talk to me. I looked through the list of organizations in the Yellow Pages and found some likely areas to look. Finally I gave up, and just picked an organization. I was told they did not use cell phones but to try the Sheriff King’s Home. I was told by the harried woman “the number is in the book.” Where is another story! I eventually tracked it down under the Y.W.C.A. After phoning the administration number, and waiting 24 hours for an answer, I got a reply and was told to call another number. I phoned the next number and again got a message. This one had a long recorded list of procedures. It included WHEN and WHERE it was alright to donate!
That stopped me cold. Let me get this straight:if I donate at the right place, but at the wrong time my items will be thrown out?!! That was what the message said. It also told me I was to fill out a form and have picture ID with me. The message then painted a James Bond meeting-style, “Go to a back, middle loading dock door on only ONE Saturday of the month between 9 am and noon!” This attempt at an act of donation was becoming a huge hassle. How many others had given up giving important items simply because of this red tape? More than ever we are an impatient society. (How long do you wait to connect to an Internet page?!) I had to call back to listen to the message a second time for the address and donation times. I found myself annoyed about yanking myself out of bed on a Saturday morning just to meet their strict rules.
I phoned Mustard Seed organization… I am still awaiting the answer from them. I hope they will need a cell phone and that it will not take a huge amount of time and forms to give it to them.
Now, unfortunately, I am starting to understand why I see discarded furniture on the streets!
To all our VOICE readers, there is a PERFECTLY good children’s bike here in my garbage building. If anyone wants it:email me at I promise I won’t make you fill out any forms!!

Laura Seymour first published herself, at age 8. She has since gone on to publish a cookbook for the medical condition of Candida. She is working toward her B.A. (Psyc).