After quarantining at home and finding ourselves with a bit more time on our hands, many of us have decided to partake in decluttering things in our homes that don’t “spark joy.” But as you may have guessed, the process is more complicated than it once was. You may find yourself wondering: During the coronavirus pandemic, are donation centers and thrift shops even open and accepting items?
At the height of the crisis, many services such as Goodwill and Salvation Army were forced to shutter. In hard-hit areas like New York City, it was virtually impossible to find a place to drop off your homewares. But now, as restrictions on retail locations have started to ease, charity and thrift stores are welcoming donations once again. That’s good news for those of us who have bags on bags of pre-loved stuff we no longer need.
Lauren Lawson-Zilai, senior director of public relations at Goodwill Industries International, says many of their locations are taking donations.
“The summer months at Goodwill stores tend to be busy, and the pandemic has only added to the inventory, with people having time to clean out their homes,” she says.
Some states have started relaxing stay-at-home orders while others are reinstating them. With so much uncertainty, it’s probably best to call and visit a charity’s website or social media page before hauling your stuff over.
In the meantime, here’s where some of the most popular charities stand.
Where can you donate your stuff right now?
Charities say they always want and need more donations, and many are now ready to accept your homewares.
Lawson-Zilai says more than 2,900 Goodwill retail stores will soon reopen.
“Goodwill Southern California is gradually reopening our thrift stores,” says Marla Eby, director of marketing and media relations for Goodwill Southern California. “Our reopened stores also accept donations.”
Donors can visit the Goodwill Locator to find donation centers that are open in their area.
Vietnam Veterans of America, another charity that accepts donations, is also reopening its locations.
“We are open in the majority of areas now and will be fully operational by mid-July,” says Quentin Butcher, business director for the group.
Donors are advised to schedule a pickup now, Butcher says. Since resuming operations, they have been overwhelmed with donations.
“The wait times for us to schedule a pickup for donors is slightly longer at the moment, but we are accelerating our service capabilities daily,” he says.
“As states across the country continue to open, Salvation Army thrift stores are as well,” says Major Gary Wilson, commander of the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Centers in the Southern territory. “In addition to accepting donations, the Salvation Army hopes that shoppers return to [shop in] the open stores.”
Wilson says it’s best to check with local Salvation Army donation centers to see current operating hours. Use this locator to find the nearest Salvation Army drop-off location or to schedule a pickup where available.
What are charities accepting?
With more charity doors reopening nationwide, organizations are accepting a wide range of tax-deductible donations, which can be detailed on local charity websites.
“We accept household items, small furniture, portable electronics, clothes, toys, and several other items,” says Butcher. “Our kind donors have enabled us to provide vital services for our veterans.”
Eby says Goodwill Southern California is accepting donations of both clothing and home goods.
“We suggest people call before they donate furniture, as a number of our stores have space limitations,” says Eby.
Wilson says items people commonly donate include clothing, furniture, appliances, household goods such as linens and appliances, and even automobiles.
Charities are also accepting financial donations on their websites, which can go a long way in helping the community.
Should you wait to donate if you can?
While charity stores are open and accepting donations, some are choosing to wait out the process a bit. As the mechanics of donating during COVID-19 has changed, some places have implemented new safety procedures, including self-serve donation drop-offs, curbside drop-offs where donated items are retrieved from a donor’s trunk, and email receipts.
Butcher says if donors have had COVID-19 in their home, they should delay donating until they are deemed healthy.
“Our drivers and staff are extremely valuable to us, and we appreciate our donors keeping them safe,” says Butcher.
And if a store or donation center is not yet open, Eby asks that people hold on to their donations.
“We have experienced significant and costly problems with illegal dumping of goods at locations not yet open. Those items end up in the trash as they are exposed to the elements and no staff is present to accept donations,” she says.
Is it safe to shop at charity stores?
For those charity stores that are open, health and safety measures are in place—in addition to requiring social distancing and masks.
“We have a new contactless donation process to keep both donors and employees safe,” says Eby.
This includes limiting the number of customers inside, one-way aisles, Plexiglas partitions at registers, touchless payment options, and health checks for employees.
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