A recent letter to The Bee questioned the blue and white dropoff boxes for used clothing and shoes. The writer noted that she had read the small print on the back of the box and it indicated that these boxes were owned and operated on a "for profit" basis. She also wondered what would be the ultimate disposition of these donated goods.
First, it should be clearly stated that I am a great believer in for-profit enterprise! This is the lifeblood of our economic system and there is no stronger proponent of making a buck than this faithful scribe.
However, the industry of secondhand stores and recycling of household goods long has been a key source of income for many local charities. These nonprofits not only use these funds to run their charitable programs but also utilize the process of sorting, reconditioning, merchandising and selling to provide jobs and job training for folks who are in dire economic circumstances.
Somehow it just strikes me as a wrong move for some savvy entrepreneurs to move in on the mainstream of support for worthy charities and rehabilitation centers. I know it is the American way to find opportunities and run with them, but sadly this one is just a bit over the line in my book.
No organization benefits more from this recycling industry than The Salvation Army. I chair the advisory council of the Adult Rehabilitation Center in Stockton, where we operate an 80-bed, six-month resident program for recovery from drug and alcohol dependency.
Our store sales and recycled goods' proceeds fully fund all aspects of this operation, and we see a great success rate in turning lost lives around. In addition to the vital flow of funds, the cycle of operations provides job training and rehabilitation for the men in the program, giving them confidence and hope for a sober and productive future.
But in recent years, we have seen donations drop off significantly, and the blue boxes have been a major contributor to this problem.
Community Hospice is another charity benefiting from recycling of household items in Stanislaus County. Chief Executive Officer Harold Peterson told me that the income from several store locations locally is vital to the ongoing program success of this important work in our community.
As to the second part of the letter writer's question, that yields a very interesting answer. Where do these donated goods end up?
The Salvation Army carefully sorts and analyzes the clothing donations. Only 5 percent to 10 percent of the donated clothes are ultimately sold off local shelves and racks. The remainder are pressed into half ton bales, and sold to a secondary market. Most of this clothing is shipped overseas to poor nations, where it finds a second life in these needy markets.
Several years ago, I was on a mission trip in Northern Ghana and we drove into a small village. The road entering the village passed between parallel wire fences which were hung for several hundred yards with clothing. I remarked to our local leader, "that sure is a lot of laundry," and he laughed and said, "No, Dick, those are 'dead man's clothes.' "
That comment got my attention, needless to say. Turns out that "dead man's clothes" is the description the rural Africans append to these goods, assuming that some rich American has died and his family has sent the clothing off to another continent since the deceased obviously no longer needs proper attire.
So, you see, there is a second life available for used clothing, and our local charities are more than worthy beneficiaries of clothing and goods you no longer need.
Hagerty is an Oakdale real estate developer active in community nonprofits. Send comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.