On my way home a Monday or two ago, I passed behind the Texas County Food Pantry and couldn’t help but notice something very unfortunate next to the facility’s loading dock.
The large steel trash bin sitting at street level was not only full, but bags and boxes of refuse and other objects too big to fit in a bag or box were piled high on top of its lid. There was so much garbage, a second bin would realistically have been appropriate to accommodate all of it.
But the unfortunate part? It was easy to tell that most of the accumulation consisted of things that had been “donated.”
One of the multiple things the Food Pantry does a whale of a job of is raising funds via its thrift store. Many local people drop off nice clothing, kitchen items, electronics and all kinds of other things that are offered at very low prices in the store.
But other people obviously take the “donation” idea too far and use the pantry’s loading dock as a way of ridding themselves of their not-so-nice junk.
The situation inevitably ramps up after a weekend, as the pantry loading dock is inevitably packed full almost every Monday morning. Then, by Monday evening, the bin reflects the regrettable reality.
Here’s the deal the way I see it: The Texas County Food Pantry loading dock is not a free waste disposal service. It’s a place to actually donate nice, usable and appropriate belongings.
If you have 16 pairs of jeans in your closet and decide to trim the number to single digits by culling several from the collection that you can’t remember wearing, feel good about bagging them up and taking them to the pantry.
But if you decide to finally upgrade the furniture in your daughter’s room and you remove that particleboard bookshelf that’s missing one of its four shelves, has gashes in one side from when a visiting relative got drunk and kicked it and a stain on the other side from where the dog peed on it a few years ago, don’t leave it at the pantry. Maybe burn it along with that ugly rug and tattered curtain.
If you just remembered you bought a complete set of undamaged, pretty dishes at an estate sale four years ago and they’re still in the garage in the same box you brought them home in, feel free to take them to the pantry so someone else can some good use out of them.
But if you have a set of non-stick pots and pans that are scratched up beyond recognition and have a dark, gooey substance permanently fused to their bottom surfaces, don’t make the pantry people have to throw them away for you. Put them in a strong garbage bag or double-bag them in Walmart bags and let your garbage collector take them away on his weekly visit.
If you buy a 42-inch flat screen TV and no longer have a need for your 32-inch tube model that works perfectly, dropping it the food pantry is a good idea because there’s somebody out there who could benefit from a TV being available for 15 or 20 bucks.
But if you decide to part with that oversized boombox that has a dead right speaker, a radio that only picks up AM stations and a cassette player that won’t play tapes, don’t make it part of the Monday morning pile atop the bin. Do the right thing and throw it out yourself.
You get the idea.
It’s really not a funny subject. The food pantry is by no means covered up with funding and its employees aren’t swimming in $100 bills, so it’s too bad there’s an undoubtedly waste disposal cost caused by the “donation” of trash.
A week or so ago, police were notified that human remains had been left on the pantry loading dock – again. C’mon, really?
This is a charitable organization trying hard to help an ever-increasing number of needy people, and the thrift store is a means of raising cash to do so. It’s not a “transfer station” or a dump, and it’s certainly not a mausoleum.
It’s kind of simple, really. Anything you wouldn’t have is probably something nobody else would have, either. Take that literally – it’s not about what you no longer want, but what you wouldn’t have.
There’s a big difference, and that difference should be considered when it comes to leaving stuff on the Texas County food Pantry loading dock. To keep it simple, just remember this: If you wouldn’t have it, don’t give it to the food pantry (or any other charitable organization, for that matter).
Here’s a suggestion if you’re still in the donating mood after you burn your late uncle’s ragged easy chair: Go to the pantry during its operating hours (10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday) and drop a 20-dollar bill with one of the workers. They’ll see to it that the cash goes to the right place, and that’s enough to provide a pretty darn good meal to someone who hasn’t had one in a while, or a half a tank of gas so a homeless family can make it to a relative’s house where they can take showers and sleep under a roof.
Perhaps more useful than a plastic bread holder missing its lid.
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. His columns are posted on the blog page at www.houstonherald.com (which is accessible by mousing over “news” and then clicking “blog”). Email: email@example.com.