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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Red boxes sparking donation dialogue

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

SIKESTON -- When people donate used clothing, they often want to help others.

With several beneficiaries, local residents should consider how they want their donation used.

Red donation boxes, which accept clothes and shoes, have popped up around the area since April. The boxes are owned by U'SAgain -- pronounced "use again" -- a for-profit textile recycling company.

U'SAgain's goal is to help with global warming efforts and keep textiles out of landfills. "We go into communities, place recycling boxes and develop knowledge about textile recyclables," said Marlene Ceja, director of community relations for the company.

The items are then sold, Ceja said. Some are sold abroad to third-world countries, others are sold and recycled into shop rags and door insulation.

The Better Business Bureau in St. Louis investigated the boxes when they began heavily appearing in the St. Louis area, said Jim Judge, director of charity information.

"We decided it was something we needed to address and at least inform people of the different types (of organizations) that are out there," Judge said. "What people don't realize is that not all thrift stores are charities."

Although there is a disclaimer on the boxes, people may not notice it. "I think most people are so busy that they don't really take the time to read the disclosure on the donation box," Judge said.

There is, however, a local charity that takes clothing donations. The Goodwill store, located at 241 N. Main, is a nonprofit agency that accepts clothing donations.

"We rely on people to drop off their good quality donations," said Phyllis Weiss, PR director for Mers/Goodwill in the Missouri/Illinois region.

Goodwill sells the donated items, and 90 percent of profits go back into the community, Weiss said. At times, clothes will be sold, as U'SAgain does, but only because they are in too poor condition to be sold.

Some organizations can receive benefits from placing the red boxes as part of a fundraising program. U'SAgain works with schools, churches and other non-profits to provide an alternative fundraising program. They teach children and members about textile recycling. U'SAgain also pays up to $40 per ton -- or 2,000 pounds -- of goods, Ceja said.

St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Sikeston is one example. Joan Chinnadurai, administrative assistant to the pastor, doesn't know what the proceeds will be used for yet. She does know the boxes are used, however.

"People are putting things in the bin," she said. "I have, on occasion, even seen people who are not church members dropping items off."

Ceja said almost 4 tons of textiles have been collected in Sikeston over the past eight weeks. "That's a huge response from an area," she said. "It definitely says that people are concerned with making a difference with recycling."

U'SAgain representatives came to the area to look for locations where people would likely recycle, as research has shown Americans usually only recycle for convenience, Ceja said. Store owners can also request a box for their location.

Rich Walker, owner of R and R Quick Stop in Morley, has had one of the boxes on his store lot for the past two weeks.

"I just told them to put it there," said Walker, who added he hates to see things go to waste. "Any time I can use my resources or assets to help, I will."

Missy Marshall, executive director of the Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce, said people who are donating need to consider multiple layers of a gift.

"What matters is how the individual wants their item used," she said. "Here, a local church is benefitting. There's is not one charity that's better than others -- they're all important."

She recommended people look to the BBB or NCIB, a national bureau that rates charities, before making such decisions.

Judge agreed. He and the BBB want to educate people, not discourage them from donating.

"If people think it's going to a charity, they definitely need to ask some initial questions," he said. "Investigate before you donate."

For more about U'SAgain, go to www.usagain.com.