Watching the refugee crisis or any number of natural disasters unfold before us on the news is heartbreaking. Our natural tendency is to want to do something—anything—that makes us feel like we’re helping those in need. While sitting here in the comfort of Chapel Hill, observing our excess, we may have the thought that we could send our extras (stuffed animals, children’s clothes, books, shoes, etc.) to those who literally have nothing. While this is a lovely thought, it isn’t always practical or helpful to those in need.
Often times in an emergency, the most critical needs are food, shelter and medical supplies. Sending boxes of stuffed animals and T-shirts requires manpower to sort through items and can create delays in customs. It can also be costly, or even dangerous, for those on the ground to transport these items where they are needed. It’s much better in these situations to send money to reputable international organizations that have trained staff who attend to the greatest needs.
If you have boxes of stuffed animals that are in excellent condition, consider taking them to the Durham Rescue Mission or other charitable drop-off sites that accept toys and stuffed animals. For clothes that still have life left in them, aren’t terribly stained, torn or unwearable, take them to the PTA Thrift Shop or Goodwill. Children’s books can be donated to Book Harvest or your child’s teacher may be thrilled to have them.
Anytime you take a donation, consider if this item is something you would actually share with a friend. If so, it’s likely to be a great donation item. However, if it’s something you would be embarrassed to give away, it probably isn’t worth donating. Always check the organization’s website to make sure they can accept the item you want to give away. Many thrift stores cannot accept toys, sporting goods or old exercise equipment. While our ultimate goal may be to clear out unwanted items at home, we don’t want to create unnecessary work for those who are taking in those unwanted items. The free shed at the Eubanks Road Recycling Center can be a good spot for items that may have a little more life in them but aren’t quite appropriate for the local thrift shop. Similar free sheds are located in Durham and in Chatham County. Freecycle in Orange and Durham County is another great way to pass unwanted items along.
Ultimately, the goal should be to get rid of things that don’t serve you and keep as much out of the landfill as possible. And if you do it right, you might just help someone in need find something that makes their life much better.