By Ted Land (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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3:21 PM EST, February 7, 2013
You know those stacks of jeans that don't fit anymore and are taking up all of your closet space? Well it's never been easier to give them away.
It seems like there's a clothing donation drop-box at nearly every major intersection in town.
But before you donate, you should know that some people are making money off of your hand-me-downs, and those dollars don't always go to charity.
Some of those bins are owned by a for-profit company, called USAgain, which now has quite a presence in South Bend, Mishawaka, and Elkhart, much to the dismay of non-profits like Goodwill, which fear a drop in donations at their thrift stores.
“Once a box shows up its going to affect us one way or the other,” said Debie Coble vice president of workforce development services for Goodwill Industries of Michiana.
Most of Goodwill’s workforce training programs are funded by thrift store sales.
“If we don't have the donations we all of a sudden become dependent on government funding and we all know the less dependency on government, the more stable we can be,” said Coble.
USAgain, which now has thirty bins in the South Bend market, thinks of itself as a recycler.
They take people's old clothes and sell them to other companies and second-hand stores, some of which are overseas.
Another chunk of the goods is shredded and turned into rags or insulation.
USAgain, which is based outside Chicago, is not a charity. It says so right on the bins and the donations are not tax deductible.
Besides removing a chunk of their supply, groups like Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul of St. Joseph County don't really like the notion that the dollars going into the USAgain boxes don't stay in the community.
“Know that if you're hosting one of our drop boxes, you're supporting the local community. Just like we want to shop local, we want you to support local,” said Charlie Thompson, executive director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. Joseph County, which operates a thrift store in South Bend.
USAgain, which has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, says it isn't trying to mislead people. They say they're just offering the community another option, a convenient and free way to keep clothes out of landfills.
“We all need to do a better job of recycling and reusing clothing,” said Scott Burnham, a USAgain spokesman, “there's plenty of room for growth in the industry.”
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