From single T-shirts to bales of stuffed animals, Goodwill manages flood of post-Christmas donations
Not long after countless consumer goods are unwrapped on Christmas Day, thoughts turn to the stuff that's being replaced - the once-cherished plush toy, the old coffee pot, the outgrown clothing, the game system that's not cool anymore.
Clothing should be washed before donating. Goodwill does not wash the clothes it sells.
Goodwill no longer accepts televisions, due to difficulty recycling the ones that don't work.
Donate only items in good condition. Goodwill says an item you might give to a friend is in good condition.
Those planning to claim a tax deduction for their donations should get a receipt, and download a value guide from goodwill.org. Tax-deductible values are the prices for which Goodwill might sell the items.
There are lots of organizations that accept donations, such as the Salvation Army and the Habitat for Humanity Restore. Some will take items, such as household appliances, that others do not accept.
Meanwhile, Goodwill Industries prepares for its busiest day of the year, which is always Dec. 31.
"We filled up a trailer truck and a half last year at just one store," said Chuck Hudson, chief information officer at Goodwill's regional headquarters in North Charleston.
The year-end rush is a combination of people making space at home for new stuff they acquired over the holidays, and people trying to beat the deadline for claiming a tax deduction. Those who itemize deductions on federal tax returns - most people don't - can deduct the value of their donations, based on the amount for which they would likely be sold, to reduce their taxable income.
So many people make last-minute donations that Goodwill closes its North Charleston headquarters on New Year's Eve and sends the staff out to help at the retail stores, where the overflow of goods will be trucked back to Goodwill's warehouse.
Goodwill is one of many nonprofit organizations that accept used goods, and with 28 stores in 18 counties statewide, it's the largest one in the Lowcountry, with a detailed ecosystem that determines the fate of every used T-shirt and golf club.
On Friday at one of the two Goodwill stores in Mount Pleasant, Anne Underkofler was among a steady stream of donors beating the rush. Underkofler said she takes donations to Goodwill several times each year.
"I don't like to throw things in the garbage," she said. "I like to think there are people out there who can use them."
Some donated goods do find new owners quickly at the retail stores. Others may be bought and resold by entrepreneurs, and others could end up in the recycling industry - clothing sold for fiber, computers broken down for their metals.
Just like for-profit retail stores, Goodwill won't keep items on the shelf too long. If goods don't find a buyer after a month or two, they may get rotated to a different store, but eventually the ones that don't sell end up at the Clearance Center on Rivers Avenue in North Charleston.
There, just about everything is sold by the pound from large bins. There are bins full of shoes, clothes, purses, books, and even movies on VHS video tapes.
The bins are rolled out into the showroom, where shoppers are waiting to do the retail equivalent of panning for gold. Some of them are in the business of buying the items for resale.
"I've left with trunkloads," said Leslie Koller of North Charleston, who buys and sells used books. Koller uses her smartphone to see what a particular book can be sold for online, then purchases it if there's money to be made.
"Last week I bought a book that's on the best-seller list right now," she said.
Another frequent customer, according to several Goodwill employees, comes in a few times a week to buy large quantities of shoes, which he then sells overseas by the shipping-container load.
For items that can't even be sold for $1.19 per pound, there's one more stop to go.
In Goodwill's warehouse there are stacks of large boxes, roughly 4 square-feet each, with labels such as "baled stuffed animals" and "salvage books" that indicate their next and likely final destination. The bales and boxes are typically sold by weight to salvors, and their contents may end up shredded for recycled fiber.
Baled clothing might get another chance, perhaps ending up on the clothing racks in dusty market stalls overseas. Or they might be turned into mop heads.
When it comes to computers and related electronics, Goodwill's Computer Works facility in North Charleston serves as the small end of the donation funnel for its 28 S.C. stores. Every donated computer goes there to have its hard drive wiped clean of data, and the computers are then either refurbished and resold, or sent to the Dell Corp. for recycling.
"Every year, the second or third day after Christmas we start to get hit hard," said Fred Brown, manager of Computer Works.
Technicians who are certified with different systems will have to test every unit, cable, keyboard, router and server. The good ones end up for sale - around $250 for a recent-model computer with a keyboard, monitor, licensed operating system and software installed.
Computer Works also refurbishes DVDs to remove scratches, then sells those for about a dollar each, depending on the quantity. The high-tech arm of Goodwill also provides hands-on training opportunities for local technical school students, and a low-cost option for computer diagnostics and repairs for area residents.
Brown said the recycling program keeps huge amounts of electronic waste from being improperly discarded.
"We're here to keep everything green and make sure it's right," he said.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552