10 Local Charities That Could Use Your Stuff
Most of us have go-to donation centers that we visit when we want to unload our old clothes, toys, and housewares — places like the Goodwill and Salvation Army come to mind — but there are lots of other places right in your neighborhood that will gladly take unwanted items off your hands and give them a new life and purpose. Take a look at these 10 often overlooked places for donations. (See also: How to Make a Noncash Tax-Deductible Donation)
1. Worship Centers
Worship centers are mostly funded by the offerings members provide at services, which are used to pay for general maintenance of the worship center and its utilities. There may be room in the budget for additional purchases the center needs, but donations of goods also are accepted to help keep the overhead low. Charitable donations ideal for churches and synagogues include musical instruments, snacks for children's services, used cars to transport disabled members, second-hand clothing and food for community members who have fallen on hard times, and toys to gift to needy children at holiday time. (See also: How to Choose a Charity)
2. Community Centers
The mission of community centers, especially in urban areas, is to keep kids off the street while giving them something productive to do with their time. Donations of educational materials — likes books and computers — are perfect for community centers, as are games and sports equipment like balls and bicycles. Call your local youth community center and ask what they need.
3. Emergency Shelters
While emergency shelters exist to take in anybody who needs a roof over their head due to any manner of extenuating circumstance, most shelters cater to the homeless population who need a safe place to sleep on a regular basis. Furniture and used clothing are excellent donations for emergency shelters, but toiletries — soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, and pastes — are even better, so those who require the emergency shelter can maintain good hygiene.
Have boxes and boxes of books, CDs, or DVDs that you can't get rid of? Stop by your local library and ask if they'll accept your unwanted media. Chances are they'll be more than happy to take such valuable resources off your hands so the library can expand its selection of material. (See also: Reasons to Support Your Local Library)
Schools are publicly funded by the taxes we pay, but individual teachers often have to dip into their own pockets to buy something special for their classes — and sometimes to buy the basics. If you want to show your gratitude for the hard work that your son or daughter's teacher puts in on a daily basis, drop off a donation of kid-friendly items like musical instruments, sports equipment, games, books, and office supplies with which the teacher can enhance class lessons.
6. Food Banks
Don't throw away still-good non-perishables when cleaning out your cupboards or pantry. Instead, pack the items that you no longer want into a bag and drop it off at your local food bank. Your donation will feed one or more people in community for at least one meal, which should make you feel great about the good deed you did. Most will gladly accept non-food donations such as office supplies, too.
7. Animal Shelters
Animal shelters are often filled to the gills with animals for which they can't find a home — and it's not easy keeping them fed and clean 24/7. If you want to make life better for a local shelter animal in some way, top donations include food and treats, old blankets, and towels.
8. Children's Homes
What children's homes need most are new pajamas, socks, and shoes. Other donations can include clothes, toys, games, and books. Let's not forget, too, that there aren't just toddlers and teenagers living in these homes. Infants often live at children's homes, so donations of diapers are also much needed.
9. Women's Shelters
Women's shelters will accept everything that you'd donate to a children's shelter — since many women arrive with their children — but they also need items for the women themselves. Toiletries and hygiene products are coveted, but since many women's shelters try to help the women get back on their feet by way of employment, donations of interview-appropriate outfits also are ideal. Women's shelters are also great places to get rid of your old cell phone. (See also: How to Get Rid of Your Old Electronics)
10. VA Hospitals
Nobody likes to sit in a hospital bed and do nothing all day while they recover. But you can make a veteran's time in the hospital a little more bearable by donating items to your local VA hospital that will entertain or occupy the soldier as he or she rehabilitates. Books and games are great donations, but handheld video games and music devices — like MP3 players — will be much more stimulating for the veteran as they heal.
Do you have other unexpected places to give charitable donations? Let me know in the comments below.