By Molly Blair
I have managed the Habitat for Humanity Restore in Athens for over nine years. I am so humbled by all of the experiences, people and places this job has introduced me to in that time. I am also amazed at the outpouring of support the ReStore has received from our customers, donors and volunteers.
Most people wouldn’t dream of donating expired food to the food bank or sending a check that would bounce to their place of worship. No one would ever knowingly hinder the progress of a non-profit. So why do people donate their garbage to thrift stores? The simple answer is that they probably do not understand how a thrift store works.
A thrift store can only make a profit (usually supporting a worthy organization) if the items they receive as donations are worthy of resale. Frequently, things that should simply be tossed for one reason or another end up on the back doorstep of the local thrift stores.
Yes, it is true that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, as the saying goes. Sometimes, however, you should really think about whether anyone might consider your trash a treasure.
I can only speak for the ReStore, but the gist of what I am saying applies to most thrift stores. Please check your donations before you bring them here. Here are the top five ways your donations cost us money (they most likely apply to other thrift stores):
1. An item does not work properly or not at all.
A Donation Attendant is here to help you when you come to donate items. They will ask whether an items works. We ask this because our customers don’t want to buy items that do not work. We test all items that can be tested at the ReStore to be sure they work before going out for sale. Restore then incurs the burden of paying for the item to be collected and sent to the landfill.
2. A product (like paint or caulk or glue) is dried up and/or useless.
Determining if a product like this is useful is easy. Open it, look at it and you will know. If the items are good, we may be able to sell them or use them here at the ReStore. We do take unused paint, but we ask that it be examined before donating. Please check with us concerning how to evaluate your paint for donating if you are unsure.
3. An item is incomplete — missing parts or hardware.
Things that are disassembled – and lack hardware or directions to reassemble them – cannot be sold. When people consider donating the contents of a bathroom remodel, for example, they should take care to save all the parts to those items.
4. An item that is broken or too old, rusty, stained, worn out or smelly to be sold.
We all love retro stuff. Really, old items have an appeal that taps into something emotional for many of us. If you have shopped at the Restore, you have seen vintage items — you may have bought vintage items from the ReStore. There is a point where those items (as stated above) have come to the end of their life. Everyone’s idea of “worn out” is different. Please understand that after nine years in business, we know what our customers are willing to purchase and what they are not. As far as items being broken, we will only sometimes repair items in order to sell them. Please make the Donation Attendant aware of any questionable items so they can decide whether that item can be accepted and sold.
5. You drop your donations here when an attendant is not available, and the items you left are not things we sell here!
The ReStore does not accept clothing, bedding, housewares (decorations, knick-knacks, etc), kitchen ware or sporting equipment. When we opened in 2011, we recognized that there were other thrift-stores doing good work in the area. We were going to focus on hardware and furniture. Things have changed some. There are 3 or 4 fewer thrift stores in the area than when the ReStore opened in 2011. If we could accept more items, we would.
The success the Restore has enjoyed over the last nine years is due to the kindness of this community. We have been blessed, for sure with dedicated customers and donors. Also, we wouldn’t be so successful without the countless volunteers who have helped us keep the Restore running so smoothly. Here’s to the next nine years!
Editor’s note: Blair is the manager of Restore.