During pandemic, donations of goods still aid needy

Josh Steedley, (from left) Alvin Bailey and Daniel Odom, all formerly homeless, unload donated items from a truck at the Nspire Outreach and HOPE for Domestic Violence warehouse on Monday, March 30, 2020, in Duluth. With so many counties and cities ordering folks to stay home, many have found it’s a good time to clear out clutter. But then what do you do with it? Several charitable organizations, viewed as essential services because they are providing food, clothing and shelter to the homeless and others in need, are still doing pickups. CURTIS COMPTON CCOMPTON@AJC.COM
Josh Steedley, (from left) Alvin Bailey and Daniel Odom, all formerly homeless, unload donated items from a truck at the Nspire Outreach and HOPE for Domestic Violence warehouse on Monday, March 30, 2020, in Duluth. With so many counties and cities ordering folks to stay home, many have found it’s a good time to clear out clutter. But then what do you do with it? Several charitable organizations, viewed as essential services because they are providing food, clothing and shelter to the homeless and others in need, are still doing pickups. CURTIS COMPTON CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

After two weekends of hanging out at the house, Nathan Staples, at the urging of his wife, decided it was time to tackle the tucked away clutter.

“We’re like everyone else, too many things set aside turn into a heap,” he said. “I put it off for long enough, but with Gwinnett calling for the shelter-in-place, I have nowhere to run to and nowhere to hide.”

Like many in metro Atlanta and around the country who’ve found themselves with idle time, Staples got busy de-cluttering. Problem is, most of the stuff was in good shape. And as a child of the Great Depression, he couldn’t just toss it in the trash.

Then he remembered an email he received from a nonprofit group that sends a truck around periodically to pick up discards that still have some life left in them.

“Even during the COVID-19 crisis we’re considered an essential service,” said Gregg Kennard, founder and senior pastor of NSPIRE, a metro Atlanta outreach ministry with a mission of ending homelessness. “We help provide housing, food, clothing, job training and counseling to so many that we’re allowed to keep operating.”

Related story: Gwinnett mothers take meal delivery into their own hands

Related story: Gwinnett schools extend digital learning days past Spring Break

One way to fund the mission is through clothing drives. “It’s kind of a misnomer because we take household goods, small appliances, furniture and right now we are accepting non-perishable food donations as well,” said Kennard.

Those donations make up about a third of the organization’s operating funds. And provide real training for the people in need.

Some program participants might be trained for making donation calls; others may be trained for clothing pickup operations, and others might be trained for clothing care and distribution.

On Monday, several many who’ve been through the program unloaded a box truck full to brim with donated items.

The clothing donated is picked up on designated routes with pickups at homes scheduled in advance. Donors don’t have to be present at the time of the pickup. They will get receipt tax purposes, as the donations are tax-deductible.

“Even before the pandemic, our pickup operators wore gloves and often practiced ‘social distancing’ because many people left items on the porch or driveway labeled that they were for us to pick up,” said Kennard. “With people looking for things to do at home, we’ve seen the number of donations go up considerably.”

DeKalb County resident LaTonya Caston uses NSPIRE and several other charitable organizations regularly and appreciates the service they provide.

“They will be in my neighborhood in two weeks,” she said. “And I’ll be leaving items on my porch.”

She’s been working at home since July and uses her lunch breaks to do little projects around the house.

“I’ll clear out closets or clean the garage and just about every time they say they’ll be in the neighborhood I have something to donate,” she said. “I used to make a thousand trips to shelters and churches. It’s good to have someone come get my stuff.”

There are several nonprofits that provide similar services.

American Kidney Serives, Goodwill and Salvation Army offer residential pick-ups and drop-off sites. But with the coronavirus updates changing daily, AKS has temporarily suspended pickups.

“We have 50-foot trailers at the recycle centers in Snellville and Sandy Springs and they both are closed right now,” said Edward Zito, president of AKS. “People are throwing donations over the fence so we’re trying to make sure those areas don’t get overrun.”

Once his team works out the logistics of running the pickup routes, they’ll be back taking donations.

And in addition to accepting gently used items, American Kidney Services has a donation valuation guide on its website to help assess what each item is worth for tax purposes.

“I’m not one of those people who sits around talking about I’m bored,” said Caston. “It makes me feel good to do for others and get my house in order at the same time.”

It’s that win-win relationship that’s so carthartic for the giver.

“It’s nice to be able to see the basement floor,” chuckled Staples. “I found a few cracked tiles, so I’ll have another ‘honey-do’ project to keep me occupied. But I don’t mind — happy wife, happy life!”

Nonprofits seeking donations of gently used clothing, household items, etc.

American Kidney Services: akspickup.org or 855-702-5259

Atlanta Dress for Success: atlanta.dressforsuccess.org or 404-589-1177

CLEAR Coalition: clearcoalition.org or 404-761-6247

Goodwill: goodwillng.org or 404-420-9900

NSPIRE: nspireoutreach.org/nspire-clothing-drive.html or text HOPE to 84700

Salvation Army: salvationarmyatlanta.org

In Other News