Written by Washington City Mission

When you donate to our City Mission Thrift Stores, your donation makes a far bigger impact than you might think. Whether you are looking to be kind to the planet this Earth Day or to help those in need in our community, donating your unwanted items to City Mission helps to make the world a better place, one small act at a time.

Most donated items get shipped over to our warehouse, which we call our Vocational Training Center (VTC).  Every day at the VTC, City Mission residents are sorting donations.  This may seem like a thankless job, but for City Mission’s Director of Vocational Training Center, Jason Johnson, every donation is an opportunity.  

“Ninety-five percent of my time is spent out on the floor with the residents working side-by-side on projects that we all believe in.  That’s my opportunity to build good, deep relationships.”  Johnson not only manages the warehouse, he is also the on-site therapist at the VTC, helping our residents work through the issues and barriers that may have brought them to us in the first place while also helping them build work-related skills in preparation for life after the Mission.    

After the donations are sorted at the VTC, they are either given away to City Mission residents and those in need in the community, or they can be sold through e-bay, at any one of our seven Thrift Stores, or at one of our warehouse sales.  All of the proceeds from those sales are used to support the life-changing programs and services City Mission provides to our residents and the community.   

If we’re unable to sell an item through any of those means, we recycle it.  “That’s the last way we can be good stewards of everything God gives us,” Johnson explained.  

Unsold items get baled up, and we recycle them by the truckload to generate income that we use to fund our programs and services.  

According to Newsweek, 84% of unwanted clothing ends up in the landfill.  In New York City alone, this amounts to about 400 million pounds of clothes thrown away annually, according to www.scienceline.org.  Donating your unwanted clothing to City Mission helps keep those clothes out of the waste stream.  We can put them to much better use. 

“Usually, our recycling goes overseas to people in need, places like Africa, India, and Pakistan.” Johnson explained.  “If you ever see pictures of someone in Africa wearing a Nike sweatshirt, it’s probably because of a process like this.  We’ve sent toys, hats, clothes, and towels overseas.  And shoes is a big one.  They use shoes a lot.  We’ll send individual truckloads of just shoes.” 

Even clothes that are unwearable can be recycled.  “They use them for multiple purposes,” Johnson noted.  Sometimes, unwearable clothing can be sold to local businesses and oil and gas companies to be used as rags.     

“Every single thing we get in, we try to utilize or recycle,” Johnson said.  Even the cardboard boxes you bring your donation in gets reused or recycled.  

“Our residents really enjoy seeing things go to good use,” Johnson added.  After a hard day of work baling up clothes, it’s fulfilling and meaningful to watch a truckload being taken away to help the less fortunate in other countries.  

“And the warehouse sales are the best.  We get to see kids and families dig through bins and pick out things that you know are going to go to good use.  The residents love seeing that.”

“At one of the warehouse sales,” Johnson added, “I remember seeing this little girl picking through the bins.  I offered her Mom a whole box, and that little girl just got so happy to get a box full of stuff.  I just knew she was going to do something cool and creative with this stuff that other people had donated.”

Even game boards with missing pieces can be reused in surprising ways.  Art teachers and therapists come to our warehouse sales and buy single game pieces to create sensory experiences used as learning and development tools for children with special needs.  Johnson even has a goal of helping the residents use donated items to build custom doll houses designed to create sensory experiences for special needs children.  

Whatever you have, don’t throw it away.  Visit www.citymission.org to see if it’s something we can accept.  You never know what impact your donation is going to make on the world, our planet, this community, or one precious child.