I fold and sort (thankfully) many clothing donations for the Center for Respite Care each month and I have some tips for potential clothing donors in Cincinnati or anywhere. In fact, I received a wonderful clothing donation today from a local church group that refilled our dangerously-low t-shirt supply (that’s lesson one: homeless shelters usually need new t-shirts, socks, and underwear the most!) and provided some paper cups and plates as well.
After folding and sorting a well-prepared donation, I thought I’d share with you the best ways to make the most of your old clothing, just like today’s donors:
1) Be hygenic: items like pants, sweaters, and even shoes can be donated with gentle wear and tear. Who hasn’t loved a hand-me-down, after all? Other items like socks or underwear are best discarded or recycled once you can no longer wear them. Especially among homeless populations, health care is often difficult to access (unless you’re staying with the Respite!). Used undies are more likely to carry harmful germs and bacteria than other duds. Donate new items you find at a local discount retailer.
2) Stains are a pain: Although you may think that a stained shirt is better than NO shirt for a homeless person, please consider the self-respect of those who will wear your old clothes. If a stain is the reason you are discarding an item, it’s time for the trash, not the donation pile. By giving our homeless clients only the clothing we would wear ourselves, we’re valuing them as people and as equals. Plus, think of the stereotypes for homeless people: dirty, lazy, and sloppy. Donating unstained items helps break this stereotype and teaches homeless people that they have worth and deserve to be respected.
3) Washing adds value to your donation: Old clothes from your attic may be in great condition. After marinating in mothballs, however, they’ll need a bit of sprucing up. Consider washing your items before donating them. Nothing says “we care!” like being able to hand a homeless person a freshly-laundered shirt. Don’t have time? Throw them into the dryer with a dryer sheet! True, we could wash them ourselves, but this takes time, effort, and money. Plus, it takes time away from providing our normal services. Donating freshly laundered clothing helps us make the most of your donation, saves time, and keeps our storage spaces smelling fresh.
4. Pat yourself on the back! All that sorting and laundering is hard work! Give yourself credit for taking time out of a busy schedule to help people in need. To add to the “feel good” factor, ask to take a tour when dropping off clothes to see your favorite agency in action. Share what you learn with a friend!