Large-Scale Donations
November 7, 2012 10:45 PM   Subscribe

Post-hurricane, and I'd like to donate almost EVERYTHING, but I don't personally have much time to sort it all out...

I have a 10x10 storage unit that is filled with all of the furniture, bedding, clothes, and housewares of my former life. I've been meaning to get rid of most of it for a while now, but I've procrastinated because the work schedule's been pretty relentless.
I have a lot of great-condition furniture and housewares for people who are trying to replace their lost items, and there is seriously no conscionable reason for me to spend another dime on storage in this scenario, so I want to donate it ASAP.
The wrinkle is that I can only give it a day, and I can't move the stuff myself, so I need to find a charity that will drive out to the storage facility and haul it all out. Most places want you to deliver the goods, and I really just can't do that right now. Does anyone have a line on a reputable charity that does this particular type of pickup?
posted by lilboo to Grab Bag (20 answers total)
Where do you live?
posted by dottiechang at 11:15 PM on November 7, 2012

Check out the facebook page FDNY Incidents, as they are listing various drop off points, and people are posting offers to help. Perhaps if you post or message the admin, some off duty firefighters/ems/police can do the pickup.
posted by anon4now at 11:29 PM on November 7, 2012

I'm not optimistic a charity would have the resources to do pickups like this. If you don't have any success, you could perhaps offer to sell the lot to anyone who would care to clear out the entire storage unit, and then donate the money to the Red Cross. It's my understanding that aid agencies often prefer cash donations over supplies anyway.
posted by PercussivePaul at 1:10 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Something to consider is, does a charity have the time or manpower to do your sorting, and is everything in there donatable or would they have to spend that limited time and manpower sorting and trashing some of it?

You say there are clothes in there: first off, please note that for hygenic reasons, pretty much no-one will accept used socks or underclothing. I did some sorting of donations after Katrina, and it was amazing how much of the clothing was totally useless --- a 1970s tuxedo?!? prom gowns?!? Yeah, people were using "I'm generously donating to Katrina vistims" as an excuse to clean crap out of their houses, which we then had to spend time and money to haul to the trash.

As far as usefull stuff goes --- furniture in good condition, ditto pots & pans and dishes --- did you specifically want to donate to superstorm Sandy victims, or just to charity in general? If it's Sandy victims you want to help, then WHERE are YOU located? No charity is going to have the resources to ship that furniture very far, and it would be MUCH more helpfull if you just sold it all and donated the proceeds. If you just want to donate it to *someone*, then try the Salvation Army, the Purple Heart, or call some local churches --- many can arrange a pickup.
posted by easily confused at 2:03 AM on November 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Lilboo's profile says New Jersey.
posted by ellieBOA at 3:19 AM on November 8, 2012

Your storage company may have some suggestions for you.
posted by vignettist at 4:09 AM on November 8, 2012

Sorry, Union county, NJ. and I believe that as much as 60 percent of it is furniture, that is, shelves, dressers, a headboard, and so on. Clothing is of the winter coat variety.
posted by lilboo at 4:23 AM on November 8, 2012

Check with local religious organizations as well?
posted by carter at 4:30 AM on November 8, 2012

Someone who's lost everything is probably still working out housing, so it might be that you'd have more success being matched with a recipient, and then having the recipient come get the stuff when they're ready. However, there's probably someone who's ready now -- maybe a hurricane victim, maybe not. Either way, you're helping.

If you're not wedded to getting a tax deduction, you might try giving through CraigsList - just post a description of the stuff, ask that people tell you about their situation, and coordinate a truck rental with the recipient.
posted by amtho at 5:09 AM on November 8, 2012

Here's what I would do:

Go on Craigslist and put an ad thusly:

Storage Unit full of stuff!

Me: A person with lots of furniture and household items that I'm paying to store.

You: A person or people who need furniture and household items due to Sandy.

My Proposition: Meet me at the unit (give address) on Saturday, bring a truck. Come sort through my crap and take what you need.

First come, first served!

The other option is to call a regular charity like Goodwill, Salvation Army or St. Vincent De Paul and see if they'll come get your stuff.

Personally, I think a potlatch would be more fun.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:41 AM on November 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

What vignettist said; contact the storage company, tell them the situation. They may have contacts (think "storage wars") who would help in this situation. Mail them the keys to the unit, and you wouldn't even have to be there for the day.
posted by anon4now at 5:52 AM on November 8, 2012

I wonder if the Occupy Sandy NJ group might be able to hook you up with someone who needs your stuff, or someone who has a truck and would volunteer to pick your stuff up and deliver it to one of their dropoff locations.
posted by Orinda at 6:27 AM on November 8, 2012

Go to a charity and say exactly what you said here.

I'd strongly suspect that if you went to Craigslist and posted "Free awesome stuff" your audience is going to be composed of the following: that odd mix of people who will take any/everything that's free even if they have zero need for it, people who do need it but can't come get it, people who need help but think this is a scam or that your stuff must be trashy hoarder stuff that you're trying to liquidate onto someone else.

Plus do you really want to be the person sitting there and cherry picking who you allow into your storage unit based upon first impressions/their vehicle/their clothing/their accents? Because I see this as a requirement if you don't involve a middleman that has experience with sorting and distributing donations after evaluating applicant's needs and means.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:12 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Look, not to be harsh, but if *you* don't have time to sort through this stuff what makes you think that people who were seriously impacted by Sandy (or volunteers who are assisting them) are going to have time to sort through it?

Is there any chance you could at least swing by the storage unit and take a few pictures?

I agree with those who've said you should contact a reputable charity (even if they don't advertise that they pick up) and ask them what they advise. Occupy Sandy seems like they would be more flexible than a more establishment kind of charity, but any well-run charity is going to be skeptical that your stuff is worth their time and truck.
posted by mskyle at 7:21 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's not exactly what you're looking for, but the thrift stores in my area will do exactly this (ARC being the one I've used the most, though I don't know if they have stores in NJ). I put out a bunch of not well sorted stuff and they come take it all away. It won't get your stuff directly to Sandy victims, but will make it available for a reasonably affordable price to those who wouldn't have access to it otherwise.
posted by lab.beetle at 8:28 AM on November 8, 2012

Consider selling it all and donating the profits.

I've been volunteering in my hometown that was very badly affected by this storm. Even finding gas to transport large amounts of useful items is difficult right now, so I doubt you are going to be able to find a charity that has the resources to do what you are asking. Sorting through donations takes time and effort--and while people have good intentions I am sure, we got donations of things like shorts, t shirts, and bathing suits, which are completely useless right now. Most people are living in temporary housing or living in their homes while they try to clean out--furniture is not something that would be of use right now.

For example the Occupy Sandy NJ folks say they need donations of:
please bring Meat/Chicken/Ground Beef, Vegetables Non-Perishables (Canned goods, soups, vegetables) Dry goods and ready to eat food (Cereal, power bars, granola, crackers, etc)(Update 11/06 1:30PM)
- box cutters / face masks rated at least N95 / work gloves / adult diapers / and the us- flashlights, batteries, blankets, etc. Lots of places seem to be taking canned food. (Updated 11-06)
Blankets Candles Flashlights Lights Water Food Batteries Diapers and Wipes Gloves and Masks Rubber boots Shovels Cleaning supplies and bleach Trash bags Serving dishes and utensils Anything that produces heat Winter wear (jackets, hats, gloves, warm stuff)

My town is basically asking people for the same items.

The Red Cross does not accept donations of items at all:
Unfortunately we are not able to accept individual donations or collections of items such as clothing, food or cleaning supplies. The cost to sort, package and distribute these types of donations to disaster victims is usually greater than the cost of purchasing the items locally, and it is logistically impossible to distribute a wide variety of individual items in a meaningful and equitable way.
posted by inertia at 8:53 AM on November 8, 2012

Another clarification; this is my fault, I shouldn't write these questions at 2 AM: I actually don't expect the person to sort through all of my stuff. What I'm hoping to find is a group that will come to the storage unit and pick up the big things, and possibly some stuff that I have already sorted through and grouped for them. I don't have a van, and I can't do the driving, or the lifting, but other than that I'm willing to do the work that is needed.

And the storage unit is the kind of place that padlocks the dumpster so you can't get rid of anything easily, so I don't expect that they will be of much help with this.
posted by lilboo at 2:37 PM on November 8, 2012

Ran out of edit time - I realize that the question as worded was misleading - I just need pickup, not sort.
posted by lilboo at 2:44 PM on November 8, 2012

Easter Seals will often do pickups of this nature. St. Vincent de Paul often will as well, and Goodwill might (some locations do, some do not). The items will then go in to their thrift store. This will not DIRECTLY help hurricane victims - but it will get the items out of your storage unit and in to the thrift shops that many victims will be shopping once they get situated with housing and so forth, and the money goes to good causes. It's hard for charities to directly accept housing goods - as noted above, it's hard to determine necessity, store the stuff, get it placed in a timely manner, etc.

However, if you're absolutely dead set on giving it to someone(s) via a charity, many domestic abuse shelters will take the items, so that people starting over from abuse situations can start over with some stuff in a new place. However, they can't do pickups usually. So you may need to work with the charity, and may need to pay to have movers (or rent a truck and have friends help?) move your stuff out of your unit and to the shelter's storage facility.

Unfortunately, due to logistics, you may have to go with a "second best" option, however you define it.
posted by RogueTech at 4:44 PM on November 8, 2012

Love Ruthless Bunny's idea, though you may want to wait a bit to post it. My family is on Long Island; if NJ is anything like LI right now, the people who can really use your stuff are still getting their houses pumped out and cleaned up. My friends in the coastal towns are all living in hotels or with family/friends; my parents, who are further inland, still don't have power yet. Things there aren't good and a lot of folks are still trying to navigate just getting the basics taken care of. Maybe it is different in NJ but if not, the people whom you want to benefit with this generosity (and it really is a generous donation) just might not be in a position to take advantage of it yet.
posted by deliciae at 11:24 PM on November 8, 2012

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