Unwanted donations cost Salvation Army

Organization spends $500 to $600 a month to clear away trash

Posted: Friday, November 02, 2007

Some Juneau residents are using the Salvation Army thrift store as a downtown dump and costing the charity organization thousands of dollars each year.

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The organization is spending $500 to $600 a month taking broken and dilapidated furniture and miscellaneous items to the landfill after they are abandoned at the downtown thrift shop, manager Henry James said.

"I just came back from the dump and my bill - $159," James said on Thursday afternoon.

"That affects the social service program and the other programs we have for those in need. What we spent on this garbage could have been spent on somebody's food or somebody's electric bill or heat."

James, who has worked at the store for nearly 20 years, said it is not a new problem, but the waste accumulating is becoming more problematic. The thrift store made three dump runs in October alone, he said.

"It eats up a lot of our earnings that could be used elsewhere, that are needed elsewhere," James said.

Occasionally they can catch someone in the act, but not too often, he said.

"Once in a while we do, but most of the time we are unable to because most of this happens late at night," James said.

People abandoning unwanted donations could be cited for "litter on occupied private property," but it's difficult to enforce, said Alisha Sell, community service officer for the Juneau Police Department.

"If we have proof of who dumped the garbage there, we can cite them," she said. "We can't have somebody sitting there 24 hours a day watching it."

Citations for a first offense is $200, second is $250, and third offense is $300, Sell said.

The Salvation Army isn't the only one that experiences this problem, she said.

"It's a common problem," she said, adding that apartment complexes often deal with the same issue. "It's difficult to catch the people."

The junk being left in front of the Salvation Army thrift store is also hampering the organization's effort to relocate, James said. The Salvation Army is building a $1.5 million store on an adjacent vacant lot on Willoughby Avenue.

"Basically right now we're trying to gather up finances for the new building," James said.

Spending roughly $5,000 to $6,000 a year to dispose of people's junk is wasteful when every last dollar counts, he said.

"It affects all the aspects of the Juneau (Salvation Army) corps," James said.

Blueprints of the new building have been completed and construction is tentatively scheduled for next spring, depending on finances, he said. The new building would nearly triple the space of the present 2,100-square-foot thrift store and have more space for storage.

The Salvation Army does not have a plan in place to stop the unwanted donations at this point, James said.

"Right now it's in limbo because of the upcoming new thrift store," he said.

• Contact Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.

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