Locations for donations are disappearing across Los Banos

We live today in a throw-away culture. Gone are the days of saving string, mending socks or straightening bent nails. When we get tired of something because we’ve found something more appealing, we generally toss it.

The question is, “toss it where?” In the garbage? Most of us would rather give it away, especially if it’s in reasonably good shape. But in Los Banos, it’s getting harder to do that, because almost all of the places that used to accept clothes, toys and household items are no longer around.

▪  The Oasis Church donation store closed its doors within the past year due to the increased costs of operation, resulting in the church having had to subsidize the store. The closing is discouraging because the proceeds from the store benefited people in need.

▪  St. Joseph’s Thrift Shop also closed about the same time the Oasis store shut down, for similar reasons. Again, that was a loss to the community, because St. Joseph’s Thrift also served people in need.

▪  The local Salvation Army had to remove its donation trailer because of multiple break-ins that resulted in the loss of donated items and costly damage to the trailer. That was also depressing because the proceeds from the resale of items – at The Salvation Army store in Fresno – helped pay for addiction recovery centers.

That leaves only one donation center in Los Banos, the Habitat for Humanity ReStore on Sixth and M Streets. But that center is having challenges, too.

The space in the building that Habitat has been using to store donated items will soon be significantly reduced because the building Habitat leases is in the process of being sold. ReStore will remain in the two rooms facing Sixth Street, but it will no longer have access to the warehouse in the back.

The ReStore was designed to accept furniture, appliances, household items and construction material. However, since the closure of other donation centers, Habitat volunteers started accepting clothing and toys, the two most popular kinds of donations, if they were boxed or bagged, as a courtesy to the community.

Volunteers would store these donations in the ReStore warehouse until an AmVets truck would come once a week to pick up the items. With reduction in space for the ReStore, this service will soon end.

The Habitat for Humanity volunteers who work at the ReStore are saddened and troubled by the recent events. “We hoped,” said longtime volunteer Sandy Lemas, “that another agency would be able to accept donated items, especially clothes and toys.

“However,” Sandy continued, “that hasn’t happened. It is discouraging that in a community of nearly 40,000 residents, we have hardly any options to donate goods for recycling.”

There are charitable organizations, like AMVETS, that are still willing to send trucks to Los Banos on a regular or irregular basis to pick up donated items. (AMVETS usually comes to Los Banos each Tuesday and if called – 877.990.8387 – will pick up at individual residences.)

Most people, however, when they’re cleaning or de-cluttering, would rather take their items to a drop-off place in town. As Sandy noted, since there is now only one drop-off place, open limited hours and accepting limited items, more and more usable items are being dumped into trash bins and ending up in the local landfill.

Sandy has been a dedicated proponent of wisely using and conserving resources in Los Banos for decades. She is a strong proponent of recycling (materials like cardboard and glass) and an equally strong proponent of “re-purposing” (items like clothes and furniture). She is not about to give up now on the challenge of vanishing donation centers: “I feel that somehow, somewhere, people in our community will step forward to help with this issue.”

Sandy would appreciate hearing from others who feel the same way she does, who might brainstorm with her in finding a solution. She can usually be found in the ReStore when it’s open (Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Or she can be reached at 827-0473.

I hope many people in our community come forward to work with Sandy and together develop new ideas soon. As Sandy said, “It’s a shame that so many items that could be used by others are simply being thrown away.”

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, a California Newspaper Publishers Association first-place award recipient for 2014, are encouraged, and can be sent to john.spevak@gmail.com.