Helping instead of hurting those in need

While it may seem that donating goods is helpful in this challenging time, it is in fact the opposite due to the closure of most charity stores across the country. Fortunately, there are other ways we can provide support to those in need during this period. (Image source: The Messenger/St Vincent de Paul)

 By Lara Pacillo | @LaraPacillo

The coronavirus has forced the closure of most charity stores across Australia, however donations are still being made, creating major pileups of goods.

Many charity stores have closed their doors to protect staff, volunteers and the community from the coronavirus, which has put a halt to their shop services including sorting through donations.

Meanwhile, Australians are using more time at home to do clean-outs and some are dumping their old goods at closed storefronts or aside full donation bins.

Clothing collection company SCRgroup drop-off hub at Marion on April 13. (Image source: Facebook/7NEWS Adelaide)

Adelaide children’s charity Puddle Jumpers closed its South Road charity store in late March, yet items are still being left outside.

“Sadly, many people have been dropping donations at the rear of the store which in turn are rifled through and left in a mess for me/us to clean up,” the company said in a Facebook post.

“This also renders most things unable to be salvaged.”

National Association of Charitable Recycling Organisations (NACRO) CEO, Omer Soker, said it is important for people to be donating responsibly.

“We are asking Australians not to leave donations outside of shops that are closed or outside of bins that are full because what that means is that becomes litter,” he said in a press release.

“It forces the costs onto charities who have to pay a waste contractor to remove it and send it to landfill.”

Charity organisation The Salvation Army store at Kensington Gardens on April 13. (Image source: Facebook/7NEWS Adelaide)

Valuable items that are dumped become waste due to bad weather and vandals.

As a result, charities must themselves dispose items, which wastes time and money that could be better spent helping those in need.

When considering donating, NACRO also state that people should ask themselves if these items are of good enough quality that they would give them to a friend.

If not, then it is not responsible to pass these onto charities as they cannot accept items that are stained, damaged or broken.

Each year, charities are forced to spend $13 million on waste management to dispose 60,000 tonnes of unusable donations.

This burden is even less affordable now with the closure of charity stores resulting in reduced funding.

“Every item left outside charities is one less meal they can provide to a homeless man, one less counselling session for a teen who is depressed, or less support for a mum facing domestic violence,” Mr Soker said.

Unless people are able to find charity stores that may still be operating, or empty donation bins, Mr Soker encourages them to hold onto valuable goods until stores reopen.

Another option people can consider is the online donation platform GIVIT.

The Australia-wide not-for-profit organisation connects people to registered charities online.

It removes the need for charities to physically collect, sort and store donations, by these organisations requesting items they need.

GIVIT CEO, Sarah Tennant, said it is a smart way to support affected people and communities.

“GIVIT’s online donation platform is a safe and practical way of donating to those most vulnerable and who have been hardest hit by this public health emergency,” she said in a press release.

“We’re encouraging people to pledge now and actually exchange the item only when it’s needed in their local area.”

For those feeling helpless and wanting to provide support to others in this challenging time, there are many ways to give to the community aside from donating goods.

Financial contributions to charities are always welcomed if people have money to spare, however there are many other options too:

Food donations

Food donations are still being accepted across many charities.

This includes Adelaide homeless shelter Hutt Street Centre who said while they are no longer accepting clothing and household items, non-perishable food donations are welcomed.

Giving blood

The Australian Red Cross Lifeblood donor centres remain open as blood and plasma donations are a vital service.

Lifeblood CEO, Shelly Park, said people are relying on these donations to survive.

“Coronavirus does not stop the need for blood and plasma,” she said in a press release.

“It is a critical resource and demand for blood is constant and will continue to be.”

Animal adoption

Animal welfare charities have pleaded for adoptions urgently as volunteers and donations have decreased.

While RSPCA and Animal Welfare League have temporarily closed foster care applications, animal adoptions are encouraged.

Virtual volunteering

For those looking to fill their time and help others in the community, volunteering from home may be the perfect new hobby.

Websites such as online marketplace Vollie connect not-for-profit organisations and charities in need with skilled volunteers.

It is completely online which means people can donate their time from their own home to organisations around the world.

Volunteering projects range from graphic design and videography right through to proofreading.

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