Donation bins: Where do your clothing donations go?

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – As we head toward the holidays, many people are thinking about giving, not just to family and friends, but also to charity.

For many, that includes donating clothes and shoes.

WKBN First News wanted to know what happens when you dump bags of clothes or shoes into one of the many donation bins around town? Where does your donation go, and who does it help?

First News found five different bins from five different charities or companies just on U.S. 224 between Canfield and Boardman. Addresses posted on the bins aren’t local to the area, rather they have addresses for their regional donation centers or distribution warehouses in northeast Ohio.

All of those bins send your things somewhere different. Some sell it. Some ship it overseas. Some try to make a profit off it.

The most recognizable bins are the yellow ones with the globe, and those are used by the Planet Aid organization.

A representative from Planet Aid’s midwest operations said there are 1,700 bins in northeast Ohio. Donations made in the Youngstown area are shipped about an hour away to Solon. From there, clothes are bundled and sold on the used textile commodity market to generate money for Planet Aid’s missions around the world.

“Some of the countries we support with aid, people live on less than $2 a day,” said Kai Nielsen, regional manager of Planet Aid, Inc.

The non-profit keeps some stuff in the U.S., but most of it is sold or sent overseas to developing countries. Leaders say the recycling helps the environment, and the collection and distribution process puts people here to work.

“We spend around 83 to 85 percent on our mission and the rest goes to fundraising and overhead and the like,” Nielsen said.

Not all donation bins and companies are created equal, so you have to look closely. If you read the fine print on the bins, some say the clothing items are sold for profit.

Capt. Bayode Agbaje, administrator at the Salvation Army Adult Rehab Center, said at the five Salvation Army Family Stores in our region, all proceeds from sold donated goods helps support a 60-bed adult rehabilitation center in Akron. He said bins from other companies or charities can cut into the donations they see to run the rehab center.

“It has not only impacted volumes that we are getting, it’s also affected the kind of quality that we’re getting,” Agbaje said. “Most of the competition, they do not understand fully the pains that we go through. They are solely for profit. We are not for profit. What we are trying to do is to get something in to help in the community where we live.”

Agbaje said the Salvation Army is saving likes like Terry Madigan, who went through the rehab program and now supervises all five family stores.

“Now, I just want to give back, and I’m trying to help out the next person that has a problem,” Madigan said.

The need is there, but with a different bin or cause around almost every corner, are Valley churches or charities hurting for hand-me-downs?

There’s a shed set up behind New Covenant Church of the Nazarene on Canfield Road, in the Kirkmere part of Youngstown.

Church member Lauren Hanlon said sometimes she’ll take a winter coat from the shed to help a homeless person in their neighborhood.

“There might be too many of them, but our shed gets full by this time next week. It will be probably halfway full, so there are a lot of donations,” Hanlon said.

The rest of the donations go to St. Pauly Textile in New York, where they’re sent around the U.S. and the world.

“Times are hard for everybody right now. I mean, it is, and people struggle right here in Youngstown that need help as well as the other countries that are less fortunate than we are,” Hanlon said.

The best advice when dealing with donations is to do your research and make sure to find a company or cause that is going to donate your items the way you want them to be handled.

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