The red and white Salvation Army clothing drop boxes aren’t filling up with used pants, shirts and shoes as quickly as they used to.
Donations of second-hand attire, which are sold in the organization’s Family Stores and given to people in need, have been dwindling locally over the past several years, representatives say.
That decline is a result of a combination of factors, including the weak economy, the destruction caused by last year’s floods and the prevalence of competing clothing drop boxes.
“We attribute a great deal of that to the economy and folks trying to get a little more life out of clothing and furniture they might otherwise have already replaced. Add flooding to the mix and it’s a recipe for lower donations,” said Captain Patrick O’Gara, administrator of the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center in Albany, in an email to the Gazette.
The Adult Rehabilitation Center, which offers a six-month rehabilitation program, is funded by The Salvation Army Family Stores’ proceeds. There are seven Family Stores in the greater Capital Region.
Competing clothing drop boxes, which are becoming more prevalent in the area, are also causing a cut in clothing contributions to The Salvation Army.
Tim Raines, marketing manager for The Salvation Army Family Stores in the Northeast, said those who intend to give their clothing as a charitable donation should do their homework before dropping it in just any collection box.
“There are a lot of for-profit companies that will recycle the material. Some of them use it for insulation, wiping rags, some of it is actually sold overseas. ... They basically take it from the box and bale it up and ship it to wherever it is going,” he explained.
The Salvation Army ships clothing overseas in bulk as well, but only if it’s not fit for sale in its stores, he said.
Some for-profit businesses put a charity’s name on their drop boxes, and in return, the charity receives a donation from the company, in the form of a flat fee or a percentage of its proceeds, Raines noted.
Local boxes owned by the for-profit American Clothing Recycling Co. of Glens Falls bear the name of Northeast Parent and Child Society.
“Northeast doesn’t own or control any donation boxes, nor do we solicit donations for any boxes. American Clothing Recycling Co. in Glens Falls is a donor (not a partner, not an affiliate) and collects funds using their boxes to benefit our programs and services,” said Eugene White, communications specialist for Northeast Parent and Child Society, in an email to the Gazette.
American Clothing Recycling Co. has about 40 clothing drop boxes in the Capital Region, said owner Matt D’Ambrosio. The company has also donated funds to help with flood recovery efforts in Schoharie County.
People’s Charity, based in Saratoga Springs, has green drop boxes scattered from Queensbury to Hudson, and others in Pennsylvania. All proceeds from the sale of collected clothing goes to charity, said director of operations Alex Golubev.
“We’re a new nonprofit organization and we only started working in New York last September, so obviously there is not much of a track record, but we have been able to donate up to $60,000 towards the community,” he said.
According to the People’s Charity website, the organization has donated to causes including the Albany Medical Center Foundation, Capital City Rescue Mission in Albany and Ballston Spa Middle School’s science department.
Any drop box option is better than tossing clothing in a trash bin, Raines noted.
“We’d rather see people donate really anywhere than to throw their items in the garbage. That’s probably the worst thing in the world to have happen,” he said.
In an effort to encourage more clothing donations to The Salvation Army, about a year ago, the organization began testing the use of automated phone solicitations locally, on a limited basis.
O’Gara said the calls have been somewhat successful.
“The most successful calls are when we let people know we’ll be at a certain location [collecting donations] on a Saturday, for example. To that end, we encourage property owners who would be willing to host a clothing drive or donation box to give us a call at 800-SA-TRUCK,” he said.
The organization will also come to private homes to make donation pick-ups of clothing and household items. More information can be found at www.satruck.org.