Dumping, not donating: Stuff piles up outside nonprofits

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Charity organizations normally are eager to get your donations — but with Goodwill stores closed, they can’t take your used clothes and household goods.

Some people are not getting the message and it’s causing big problems for nonprofit organizations. The donated or, more appropriately, dumped items are gathering in piles outside donation sites.

Perhaps the worse example is the Goodwill store on Michigan Street and Diamond Avenue NE in Grand Rapids.

A mess of donations pile up outside the closed Goodwill on Michigan Street NE in Grand Rapids. (March 27, 2020)

“It’s almost like we’re a dumping ground, which is really sad. We are a nonprofit, so we have to clean this up we have to pay wages to clean this up,” Jill Wallace, a spokesperson for Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids, said.

And people picking through the items, which only spreads out the debris.

“This has already been picked up once a couple of days ago, so this is what we have two days later,” Wallace said Friday.

While the country works to slow the spread of coronavirus, all of the area centers that take donations of clothes and household item have stopped doing so.

“It really doesn’t make sense for people to be making donations when we know the virus can potentially live on those donations,” Wallace explained.

Instead of making money through recycling and reselling the items, which helps serve the community, Goodwill is having to pay money to have them discarded. It can’t take the chance that the items are infected.

“When people make donations right now, they are not going toward a cause,” Wallace said.

Another Grand Rapids nonprofit, In The Image, has been closed for two weeks, though it is still giving out basic needs like soap, toothbrushes and hand sanitizer.

“Anybody who leaves things that are left outside after hours, that’s called illegal dumping,” Egan said. “If you see our doors are closed, please don’t leave things out front. We try to serve with dignity and hope and that’s just not the way we do things.”

Like In The Image, the Salvation Army is continuing many services, but is also asking people to hold on to their donations.

“What we’re really asking people right now is to hold on to those donations. Put them in your garage, in your laundry room. Make those donations after we have reopened because we’re really going to need them to get people back on their feet,” Wallace said.