Has this ever happened to you? You’re chatting with someone you don’t know very well and after they leave you remember all the things you should have said or done. For instance, I ran into a high school alumni at a farmer’s market and instead of giving him a business card to get in touch with me I pointed out my website address on my bag.
To be fair it’s a lot easier to remember something simple like You Get Well Soon than it is to ask him to remember my name and its exact spelling. (Some names are complicated and mine really is one of them.)
It also would have been nice for me to remember some of the details I wanted to at the time that I was giving away my maternity and early baby clothes. Life is pretty funny. I was trying desperately hard to find a local organization to take these items along with some baby stuff (swing, breast pump, sling, etc.). I am now and always have been a firm believer in donating rather than trashing my used stuff. And I don’t know why I forget every time but it’s like the organizations go out of their way to not get donations of anything other than cash. Now I understand that used stuff (and even new stuff – that they’d prefer) requires sorting and storing and assessing needs and therefore Manpower. I get that. Not every facility has storage space or enough volunteers to make this possible. I really do get it. BUT. Why is it that items that were perfectly good for me and my kids are somehow found to be lacking for the less fortunate?
They’re less fortunate – why do they need better stuff than I used?
I ran into this years ago when I wanted to give away my car. Plenty of organizations were willing to have me trash my car and then give me a tax voucher. That’s not what I wanted. It was a fully roadworthy vehicle. Subarus last forever – well practically. They’ll go until the body rusts through and there’s either nowhere to sit or the engine falls out. But giving it away was a nightmare. After far too many phone calls and surly volunteers (I even talked to churches), I ended up finding someone through my mom who needed a car.
This lady grew up in a less that ideal situation and had let’s say a limited trust of people. She befriended my mom though and they were quite close. When I gave her my car she was not only happy to have a working car – for free, she also gained some measure of faith in people. The small thing caused a ripple effect. And I was happy to do it. I’d rather give my car to someone who can use it that trash it or go through the hoops of selling it for a few hundred bucks.
So likewise, I wanted to give my old maternity and baby stuff away. There is a never-ending need for these items by those ladies who cannot afford them for any number of reasons. So why is it so hard to be charitable with such items? I burst into a conversation a table of ladies had at a coffee shop regarding charities. (Not surprised are you?) They were discussing the sad state of charities. One point that was brought up was the high number of organizations. Each, of course, with at least one paid position . It’s not a bad way to make money. Solicit funds for a genuine cause, get the tax breaks and collect an income while doing good. Sounds like a perfect scenario. And it would be if there weren’t so many thus spreading the actual usable dollars so thin. Think of it, if there is say $1 million dollars donated annually to charities in your city geared towards those who are financially in dire need (homeless and those victims of abuse who need to abandon their homes). Of that million wouldn’t more actually go to those in need if there were fewer agencies and therefore not only less overhead (as far as salaries go) but also more volunteers that donate their time would all be working for the same place – getting more done.
After what seemed like endless calls to about a dozen agencies, I got referred to 2 places. The Thrift Store which is an arm of the Salvation Army and the Women in Need store.
Now they will take the clothes but not any ‘furniture’ and apparently the swing was considered furniture and was deemed un-donatable. How I was told that they work is that they are a store. So anyone can come in and buy anything in the store. And, they give vouchers to those who qualify and they can ‘spend’ them on whichever items in the store that they need. It’s like giving them away but also has I suppose an accountability associated with the donation.
Needless to say, I did not end up using these organizations for the donation of my baby and maternity stuff. I called up a couple well-connected people I know who then led me to the same lady. She and her husband came by my home and picked up the items. I told them they could go through the stuff now and leave what they didn’t want or they could take everything if they promised to give away what they wouldn’t use. They were great and seemed to be appreciative of the items. They were actually really cute and asked about a few aspects of parenthood and I volunteered what info I could at the time – and then directed them to my blogs (here and through Blogger) to flesh out some topics that are too big for people who don’t really know one another to get into – like breastfeeding and diapering without droning on and on. Can’t really do that with people who not only have come from work and are tired already but also, hello, pregnant lady. She doesn’t need to be on her feet any more than is absolutely necessary.
Bottom line – it shouldn’t be this hard to give quality items to those who genuinely need them. The women who got my things could use them and I’m sure the expenditure savings were nice but Need is another concept altogether. It’s a shame that it isn’t easier to connect the haves with the have nots when both parties want.