I force myself to clean out my garage at least once a year, vowing to get rid of items I've hung onto for far too long.
It's the same each year: I pull a box from the shelf, count the years I've been hanging onto it, then tell myself to let it go. Then any usable items, or those with some retail value, are loaded up, along with bags of unwanted clothes that no longer fit (due to shrinkage, I'm sure), and all is taken to a local charity center.
Lately, I've noticed the centers have gotten much more picky about what they accept. Maybe it's just me, but I am embarrassed by having my items picked through and having a representative of the charity tell me that some are no longer acceptable. For example, a perfectly good 19-inch television made the ride to and from Goodwill last year.
So this year, as I traveled the last few blocks, I felt that familiar pull in the pit of my stomach. I wondered what items would be rejected. To my surprise, not a single item met a turned-up nose. Instead, the man working at the donation door unloaded my truck without any concern about the type or condition of my items.
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Soon, I understood why. He picked up a box of glassware and dropped it into an empty bin from a height of nearly four feet, accompanied by heartbreaking shattering of glass.
When I said, "Guess you broke a few, huh," he just laughed and continued pulling items from my truck. He couldn't have cared less about breaking the things that I had painstakingly parted with in the hope that I would help someone else by donating them.
He did stop to look through one box of housewares and found an old cell phone that I should have donated to the program for our soldiers overseas. Before I could say anything, he said "This is for me," and put it in his pocket.
Distaste and disappointment mingled as I watched him go through each box, feeling that some of those items would never even make it into the building.
Donating usable items has always left me feeling good, secure in the knowledge that my donations would help generate revenue for an organization known nationwide for providing job training and placement, housing and substance abuse assistance and other meaningful programs for those in need.
Stanislaus County Goodwill Industries works closely with our county Department of Social Services through the Welfare to Work program, providing vocational training in an office technology program helping participants prepare to secure employment in entry-level general office, receptionist or data-entry positions. They also have a program to teach janitorial skills.
Maybe they would consider training and monitoring their own employees, teaching a little respect for items being donated. They should at least wait until we drive away before pilfering our boxes or breaking what we leave behind.
I believe this must have been an isolated event, so it won't deter me from making future donations. But next year, I'll make the trip after conducting a garage sale.
Vidauri is a Modesto resident. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.