Get Off Your Soap Box: Warm Some Hearts

Today is my third attempt to dismantle my soap boxes and become an active participant in the things I believe in.  I am done shouting from the podium and expecting everyone else to do the grunt work.  If you have a soap box issue, please consider joining me on the ground level.

Spread the Wealth…er, mittens.  I don’t have wealth, but I have lots of extras.  With four growing kids, we annually fill garbage bags of clothes that my kids have outgrown.  Sadly, I know other people who literally fill not only trash bags, but their trash cans with gently worn clothes instead of donating them to somebody who can use them.

With winter fast approaching, I’ve cleaned out my closets.  A big job and one I don’t relish.  However, the following “extras” I found made it all worthwhile: mittens/gloves (7 pairs), hats (2), winter jackets (11), snowpants (5), scarves (2) and fall/spring jackets (6).

But what to do with them all?  Consignment stores don’t always get the gear into the right hands.  And even some community service organizations get a more diverse customer base than anticipated.  In fact, I’ve heard the Salvation Army has become kind of a chic place to shop for well-to-do individuals.  While it is not my right to judge others, I know for certain that I don’t want our extra winter gear to clothe kids whose parents can afford new winter wear.  This defeats the purpose of warming the hands and hearts of children in need.

Common arguments against donating to the needy:

  •  “It’s not my fault parents spend their money on cigarettes and booze instead of their kid’s clothes.”
  • “Why should I dress someone else’s kids when the parents are too lazy to pay for it themselves.  Get a job.”
  • “Nobody gives me handouts.”

To which I say: “You’re right.  You are not obligated to be kind, giving or supportive.  You are not obligated to part with your hard-earned money and out-grown snow clothes.  Nor are you obligated to provide for anyone besides yourself.”

Arguments for donating to the needy:

  • It is not a child’s fault his parents smoke or drink.  It’s not.  No matter how much one may dislike families on welfare or families who live in trailer houses or families who buy booze and not mittens, we must remember that the children are not the ones making these choices.  They are simply the ones with frost bit fingers and cold toes.
  • Again, a child is not responsible for a parent’s unemployment.  She is simply the one to suffer from lack of food, clothing and decent shelter.  She is the one standing on the playground with the wind whistling through her four-sizes-too-small, thread-bare coat.  Not to mention, not all unemployed parents are unemployed by choice.  I’ve known very affluent, educated individuals who lose their jobs.  I’ve known these same people to be unemployed eight months later.  If they had kids without new winter clothing would we feel bitter toward them or commiserate with their bad luck?
  • The “nobody gives me hand outs” argument is just plain ridiculous.  I don’t care who you are, we’ve all gotten something free at some point in our lives.  When we started out as newly weds, at least one piece of furniture, one set of dishes or one blanket was donated by parents, friends or friends of parents.  When we got pregnant, somebody passed their maternity clothes onto us.  When our friends’ kids outgrew that cute jumper and baby swing, we were the recipients.  Everybody gets hand outs at some point and to some degree.  Some just need them more than others.

Okay, so maybe I didn’t exactly get off my soap box for this matter.  But, I’m still doing something about it.  Don’t get me wrong, we’ve always donated our children’s out-grown clothing.  However, I (rightfully) worry that these items don’t always make it to the right individuals.

Because our county does not have a Coats for Kids and I know we have many kids in our community who need coats, I’ve contacted a very wonderful and generous woman who works closely with families in need.  She’s already guaranteed our donations will get into onto the right hands.

How about you?  Do you have trouble donating to the needy?  If so, why?  Is donating items more acceptable than donating money?  Why or why not?  What are you teaching your children about your community’s welfare?  You don’t really need to answer those questions, but I’d like you to think about them and how this issue pertains to you and your community.

Easier questions to answer: What do you do with your used clothing?  Have you seen the new “for profit” drop boxes for used clothing?  If so, how do you feel about that?  What tips or resources do you know about that can help warm the hands and hearts of our nation’s youth?

Passionate minds want to know.


8 responses to “Get Off Your Soap Box: Warm Some Hearts

  1. Great post Cat! As always. I know many, many communities (even my small one) have Family Resource Centers that give clothing and food to needy families for FREE, rather than charging money. Also many churches–including Unitarian Churches–have donation boxes. And there are often foodbanks run out of private homes.

    There are so many simple ways to give to people, I’d love to see more people doing it.

    And if you have time, volunteering is something even those with no money can do.

  2. You have a big heart, Michelle, and some great suggestions. No matter what our own resources, volunteering costs us absolutely nothing! And–as in the case of our stuffed storage room–kids out grow clothing with regularity, henceforth making this type of donation free. Finding the best way to distribute these items to the neediest families is the issue.

    Our community problem is that we currently have no way to distribute clothing for free. Even our donations sites are very limited. Sadly, our rural communities can’t afford many services and transportation to the bigger cities is out of the question for a lot of our families. This means well-intentioned donations to the bigger organizations don’t always trickle down to our local families.

    You’ve given me some food for thought about better collection and distribution. Thanks!

  3. Great post as always, Cat. I have to admit, I don’t always donate to businesses geared toward the needy. But I do donate to people I know who are strapped for cash. And a lot of what we give up goes to Goodwill. If it’s not torn or stained, it’s either garage saled (this rarely happens anymore as it’s never been worth my time, though I enjoy the sales) or given away. I would never dream of trashing a good, reusable product simply because I’m done with it. That’s ridiculous and wasteful.

    • I wish more people were as thoughtful as you. So many of the clothing donations are unusable, as some people tend to use collection sites as free trash cans, dropping off dirty, out-dated and worn-out clothes.

      Thanks for doing your share of warming the hearts of those who need our help.


  4. cat – first, thanks so much for your kind words about my blog. that was such a warm thing to wake up to over here on this cold, wet, california coast morning. 🙂

    as for your questions, we donate all of my child’s outgrown clothes, largely because they are still in good shape when she’s shooting up like a weed and outgrows them, and we don’t have kiddo #2 (nor will wee, unless God has other ideas) to hand them down. our thoughts are why in the world wouldn’t we? i work with homeless children and families, and the need is right under my nose. i also purge my daughter’s toys ever so ofter…WITH her help…to give those away, too. i want to teach her empathy and compassion for others, and that’s a great way to do it.

    great post!

    • Jeannie,

      Thanks for stopping by! Also, thanks for being such a great role model for your daughter. Kids learn by watching and showing her the joys of being generous and compassion is the best gift you can give her. Everything else will come.

      Sending warm, dry weather your way!

  5. Great post, Cat. There is no greater joy than giving and helping out. I take my kids to clothes bins when I drop clothes off and explain to them who the clothes are going to and why they need them.

    I was a counselor for a group home of mentally ill adults for many years. With my full time job, I could only do it on the weekends. And now with a family I no longer can give that kind of time. For sure, I miss them. Regardless of what I do in my current job that pays the bills, I know my most meaningful work was done in that house.

    • Steve, that’s such a touching and heart-warming story. I, too, used to work with mentally challenged adults and kids. There is no greater joy than helping them gain a footing in the world.

      It is so great that you take your kids with you to pass along your compassion for others to them. They are blessed to have you as a role model.


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