This may sound like another semi-negative blog post on my part, but it is something that my wife and I deal with quite a bit and has really struck a nerve, so stay with me if you can.
When we look at what we have and what we decide to give up for various things, it is truly fascinating to see what it is we find worth to give to God. Scripture says we are to give God the first fruits, right? We are not supposed to give him what is left over, but the good stuff. Well, when we started getting involved with thrift stores about a year and a half ago, we found something we really weren’t expecting. A lot of real garbage.
If It is Garbage, Throw it Away
Do we stop and notice what we are donating. Do we think about it before hand. I am donating this so someone else less fortunate than me can have it at a good price. We take up collections of items to ship overseas once in a while for a good mission trip, are these materials you would want to send to them?
This sort of leads me off topic a bit for this conversation to a familiar site among churches, the church garage sale (or bizarre, or flea market). This is where we bring all our junk and try to sell it off to raise money for the church in some manner. I have never cared for the notion of bringing up our items that have no value or meaning to us to sell, but that is all for another article (there are good “church sales” too).
The point here is, when we give, and we know it is supposed to be for a mission, the church, or to further the kingdom in some manner, do we reflect on what it is we give? Does what we give reflect on what perception we give others about the church?
Goodwill, Salvation Army, Mission Thrift Type Stores
Some of you may know that my wife and I volunteer in a mission type thrift store each week. We have done this now for more than a year, going on 18 months, so we have had the privilege of seeing what all we bring into these store to donate, and we are amazed, daily. A huge amount of our time (and everyone else who works there) is spent on sorting through what is actual donated materials that can be cleaned up and sold, and pure garbage. I am not talking about something old that I personally wouldn’t buy, or a color I don’t like, I am talking about trash. The stuff the WM (Waste Management) picks up at your house once a week.
You know, stuff that is of absolutely NO value what-so-ever. Old prescription bottles, coloring books with all the pages already colored, Bible studies that are completely written in or half the pages torn out, old food, broken items of all kinds (as in smashed with no repair possible), and so on. These are things that no one would ever want to give to someone, let alone sell.
Throwing Away Garbage Costs Tons of Money
This is a serious matter for these stores. Just this year, one of the local Goodwill Store in Opelika closed their doors for good. They had been opened at that location for 22 years. They were receiving items they couldn’t sell (stated lack of donations) among other reasons, but their costs to stay opened were just too high.
What is amazing about the whole process is the thrift store is left with taking out the trash. This has become more and more expensive over time but has now reached critical proportions. My wife and I work with one single section of materials, and we personally throw away about 2,000 pounds of materials each week that are not able to be sold in any shape or form. A recent conversation with one of the employees about the cost of trash pickup was amazing. He explained that last year, the thrift store we work with was paying about $300 a month for the dumpster pickup in total. Dumpsters were picked up a few times a month. We are not talking about the small dumpster either, this is the full size 18-wheeler trailer size.
But, prices had been steadily rising. Now, as of this post, the thrift store is paying $450 PER PICK UP, which happens a few times A WEEK, and the cost seems to have no ceiling. Over the past year from what I can tell, the cost for trash pickup at this store has gone from $300 a month to more than $2000 a month.
What is amazing is that the amount of trash that is required to be thrown away keeps increasing as more people donate their pure garbage instead of salable items the store desperately needs. What is truly amazing about this is that people are donating things to these stores, and are COSTING the store money instead of increasing their revenue. This is taking away from their effectiveness as a mission or all the other great things that they can do with donated material revenue.
Please Continue to Donate to Thrift Stores
Please don’t get the wrong idea here. If people did not donate to the local thrift stores none of these missions would be able to continue. Goodwill and the Salvation Army do many things other than sales at their stores. Disaster relief, aid for the hungry, and a whole host of other things, so please continue to donate, but when you are filling that trash bag, think about whether the trash bag should go to the dump, or to the thrift store.
If you dispose of something that is actual garbage, you will be saving the store money. If you are one of those pack rats that just can’t stand to throw something away, no matter what it is, just think about the cost incurred by the thrift stores to dispose of your trash.
What are your thoughts? Do you donate to the local thrift stores? Just leave a comment below, I always enjoy hearing what the readers have to say.