There’s a right way and a wrong way to donate
VOLUNTEERS at Dubbo’s St Vincent de Paul op shop in Brisbane Street devote a staggering 1200 hours to the community each month.
That works out at 40 hours per day, seven days each week.
Volunteer hours are worth about $35 for basic unskilled labour, so this one op shop is generating about half a million dollars of unpaid labour into the Dubbo community each year.
That is a contribution really beyond price.
Many of the volunteers are older, and their hearts were broken when they rocked up on Tuesday morning to find donated clothes that wouldn’t fit in their donation bin strewn across the concrete, rain soaked and ruined.
If clothes hit the ground, they have to be thrown out and, ironically, the charity has to pay from its hard-earned cash to dump what were meant to be donations.
Pat Thornton, who is co-ordinator at Vinnie’s Dubbo store, told Dubbo Photo News, “People donate good things, their little treasures, and they bring them in in good faith thinking they’re donating them to St Vincent de Paul to be used for vulnerable people.
“The volunteers give up their time to sort through everything, and it’s distressing for them if they not only can’t use them, but are forced to throw them out.”
Carmel Carolan volunteers at Vinnies and was with the sorting ladies when they arrived at the store to see piles of water-soaked clothes sitting next to the donation bins on Tuesday morning this week.
“Oh, they were just distraught. They said, ‘You know, this is terrible and we need to let people know that this has happened to things they were donating to us so it doesn’t happen again,’” Mrs Carolan said.
St Vincent de Paul Society NSW Executive Officer for this area, Bruce Buchanan, said it’s a common problem, seeing well-meaning donations unable to be used for various reasons, then placing a burden on the very charity they’re trying to help.
“Unfortunately, donations that are left on the sidewalk or beside bins often get scattered across the payment overnight and are unable to be used,” Mr Buchanan said.
“So Vinnies is asking people to please bring their quality donations during business hours as much as possible.
“We have a number of volunteers who come in on weekends to empty bins so we can continue to accept donations, but sometimes we do get overwhelmed with donations on particular weekends,” he said.
Vinnies has noticed a massive upsurge in demand because of the current drought, so in addition to providing care and support to those in need in western communities, the organisation has provided more than $5 million of financial support to farmers throughout this Diocese, which covers an area from Oberon to Coonamble.
“In this tough time of drought, Vinnie’s has been able to provide some financial assistance to farmers for household bills to ensure the family is looked after. There are a number of charities looking after farm assistance so Vinnies is focusing on the family,” Mr Buchanan said.
“We are so grateful to the Dubbo community for supporting us with their donations, we just don’t want to see those donations spoilt and not get used.”
There are so many charities doing so many good things, but this case shows that often good intentions need to be backed up with some knowledge.
It’s no use taking the time and making the effort to donate clothes to Vinnies if the bin is full and your donation will be ruined by rain.
And if you have some spare time on your hands, look around for a charity or community organisation, give them a call and ask how you can help – you may be pleasantly surprised at just how easy it is, and you’ll certainly be pleased that you’ll get at least as much out of volunteering as you put in.
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Pat Thornton and Carmel Carolan (front) with volunteers at Vinnie’s in Dubbo. They’re asking the community to make sure donations are in the proper bin, otherwise they can be damaged by weather and unusable.