COLUMBIA — It looked as if a tornado had blown through the side parking lot of the Salvation Army Thrift Store off Business Loop 70 on Thursday afternoon. Half the side lot was strewn with items left by well-meaning donors: yellow shorts, mystery novels, old couches — you name it — it was there in a disorganized lot.
Although the thrift store, at 1304 Parkade Blvd., has been closed for renovations for a week, people have been continuing to try to donate items by leaving them in the parking lot, said Salvation Army Development director Cyndy Chapman. Unfortunately, rather than helping the Salvation Army, dropping off donations when it’s closed simply costs it more money.
By ignoring the “no dumping” signs and leaving materials in the lot, it prompts others to look through them, which often leaves them unsuitable for sale. Overnight rain can also destroy the items. Salvation Army employees have to check the lot every morning to make sure it is clear enough for renovation crews to work. The charity also must pay to have unusable items taken to the landfill.
Rather than leaving the items at the Parkade store, people can take them to the other Salvation Army Thrift Store at 23 E. Walnut St., or wait until the Parkade store reopens Monday.
Chapman also said that although it is illegal to dump items near posted signs, police lack the resources to monitor the lot and ensure people don’t drop things off.
“It’s not their problem,” she said.
The Salvation Army thrift stores accept donated items then sell them at low prices, giving the proceeds to local charities. Chapman emphasized that the profits from local thrift stores stay in Columbia.
On Thursday afternoon, Columbia resident Kara Ash, 31, was sifting through items left in the parking lot. She said she often looks through the things the Salvation Army throws out because she finds them usable.
Ash often finds clothes for her daughters, Alana, 7, and Hannah, 4, that she said are basically new.
“You would not believe what people throw out,” she said. “It’s ridiculous.”
Ash said she has called the police and sheriff’s departments to make sure what she is doing is legal. She also suggested that people — and the Salvation Army — should consider donating items they deem unusable to The Shelter, which helps victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, rather than dumping them.