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Local nonprofits urge people to donate their unwanted Christmas gifts

Becky Zondervan, left, and Randy Novak work Wednesday sorting recently donated items in the back room at the New 2 You Thrift Store in Willmar. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR — While it may be tempting to exchange the not-so-flattering sweater Aunt Judy gave you for Christmas, local nonprofit officials say it’s best to donate those items and keep them in the community instead.

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Aside from the fall and spring, the end of the year is one of the busiest times for donations, said Lisa Ritter, director of marketing for Goodwill/Easter Seals Minnesota, which serves the Willmar area. In addition to donating unwanted holiday gifts, people are also trying to meet the Dec. 31 deadline for tax-deductible donations.

“We’re always hoping for more donations at the end of the year,” Ritter said in a phone interview.

The Goodwill store in Willmar accepts artwork, clothing, household items, furniture, large and small appliances, video and computer games, books and even gift cards, Ritter said.

“At this time of year, we’re hoping to be a repository for people who have unwanted holiday gifts,” Ritter said. “We’re a terrific place to donate items that are working but may just have been upgraded over the holidays.”

When people donate items to Goodwill or a similar organization, not only are they receiving a tax deduction, they’re supporting their local community, Ritter said. In Willmar, revenue from Goodwill stores goes toward job training and placement programs, a free medical equipment loan program and a program for at-risk youth ages 14 and older.

At the New 2 You Thrift Store in Willmar, all of the money made in the store goes back to Central Minnesota Christian School in Prinsburg, said store manager Becky Zondervan.

“It’s about helping and giving back to the community,” Zondervan said. “The money from New 2 You brings down the cost of tuition so it’s affordable for many people.”

As people are finding a place for their new Christmas presents, it’s a good time to look through what they already own and see what items could be donated, she said.

“Anything that hasn’t been used or worn in the past year would make a good donation,” Zondervan said. “It’s a good rule of thumb: If you haven’t used within the last year, donate it so somebody else can.”

New 2 You accepts household items, clothing, furniture and large and small appliances. If the store cannot sell the item, they may still accept it, Zondervan said.

“Depending on what it is, we can get rid of some things for people,” she said. “For example, if we’re inundated with jackets, we send those to Honduras for those who need them. We make quilts out of blue jeans for autistic children. We can also scrap certain metal items for a profit. It really depends on what the item is.”

If people are unsure of what items the store will accept, they can call ahead and ask, Zondervan said. New 2 You will also arrange to pick up furniture and larger appliances.

Aside from Goodwill and New 2 You, the Salvation Army in Willmar also accepts smaller donations, said Michael Fuqua, corps administrator at the Salvation Army.

“We don’t have a thrift store anymore, but we will take some things, just nothing large or large quantities,” Fuqua said. “If you have a coat or some small household items that you want to donate, we will take those.”

The Salvation Army then gives those items to lower-income people in Kandiyohi County at no cost to them.

“If it fits, we let them take it home,” Fuqua said. “People know to come to us when they need something, and we give it away as best we can.”

No matter where people choose to donate, it’s important to remember that someone else can always use what they may not want or need anymore, Fuqua said.

“If you don’t need it, why throw it out if someone else can use it?” he said. “It’s a matter of doing what is right. It’s common sense. No matter how you do it, sharing is caring.”

Ashley White

Ashley White is the community content coordinator for the West Central Tribune. Follow her on Twitter @Ashley_WCT.

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