Most homes are stuffed with items that may hold a sentimental value, but are truly taking up precious space. Here are 10 places to donate the unused items that you love, and in return, help people in need!
- Bridesmaids Dresses- help a teen attend prom! That dress that you wore down the aisle at your friends wedding can help a disadvantaged teenage girl proudly attend her school prom with the rest of her class (and you'll get a tax deduction). Formal gowns in every size and style are needed all over the country. To find an organization: go to DonateMyDress.org and click on "where to donate and receive".
- Wedding Gowns- help a cancer patient! Instead of being stuffed in the back of a closet, the Brides Against Breast Cancer organization will sell it in a wedding show to a new bride and use the proceeds to grant the wishes of a terminal cancer patient, just like Make-a-Wish, but for adults. The charity also accepts mother-of-the-bride and flower-girl dresses, and donations are fully tax deductible. For more information: go to BridesAgainstBreastCancer.org or call 503-491-8091.
- Halloween Costumes - help an underprivileged kid trick-or-treat! Sewed or purchased a beautiful costume for your child last year, and now it's sitting in a box somewhere? You can give that great costume a second life on another child who might now have been able to afford one - so it can provide a wonderful Halloween memory twice! To donate: In South Florida, go to FreeCostumesForKids.org; in Philadelphia, contact TheHalloweenHelpers.com. Both have local drop-off spots and accept mailed donations.
- Stuffed Animals - help comfort a traumatized child! Not only are they one of the things we feel most sentimental about, "used stuffed animals are the most difficult to find a home for,". Stuffed Animals for Emergencies, Inc., to the rescue! They distribute gently used stuffed toys (as well as other toys, books and blankets) to organizations and homeless shelters that help kids in times of crisis. Donations are never sold; all go directly to children in need. To find a chapter near you: click on "Chapters" at StuffedAnimalsForEmergencies.org.
- Baby Gear - help a struggling new mom! Remember all the stuff you had to buy when your little one was born? You can ease the way for a single mom just making ends meet while making sure those outgrown items - from clothing to strollers - go to good use. "Most take maternity clothes, too". To donate: In the New York area, check out BabyBuggy.org (212-736-1777) or RoomToGrow.org (212-620-7800). In the Los Angeles area, contact Baby2Baby.org (323-933-2229). Around Boston, try CradlesToCrayons.org (617-779-4700) and RoomToGrow.org (617-859-4545). Near Philadelphia, contact CradlesToCrayons.org (215-836-0958). Can't find a charity near you? Log on to HandMeDowns.com to place a free ad to give your baby gear to someone who needs exactly what you have.
- Furniture - help furnish a needy family's home! Because so many charities don't have the space to store it or the capacity to move it, furniture is the second hardest thing to donate. Enter the National Furniture Bank Association (NationalFurnitureBank.org), which makes tax-deductible furniture donations easy. "They arrange pickups, then match your donation with people in need.
- Old Greeting Cards - help better the life of a neglected child! Think nobody would want all those old, hand-written on cards you haven't been able to throw out? The kids at St. Judes Ranch for Children (StJudesRanch.org) will turn those used greeting cards into brand new cards, then sell them and use the money to help abused and neglected kids. They accept all but Hallmark, Disney or American Greeting cards.
- Costume Jewelry- help someone get a job! Don't want to wear it yourself, but want it to go to someone who will appreciate it? Donate it to Dress for Success (DressForSuccess.org), which provides disadvantaged women with gently used professional clothes and accessories to wear on interviews. "A unique necklace makes a great conversation piece," explains Jamie Novak, author of The Get Organized Answer Book. "It can be a good way to break the ice in an interview!"
- Communion Dress - help a girl experience Communion! You know how much it meant to your daughter, and you also know that some families just can't afford one - which is the reason Gail Roca collects donations at her Long Island consignment network, TheKidsKloset.com (click on "Communion Dress Donation" and you'll get a $5 Kids Kloset gift certificate and your donation receipt). Another option: Junior Scout Makayla Shinnick and her mom, Teresa, do the same at the education center of St. Francis of Assisi near Chicago (708-460-0155). Looking for someplace near home: check for local drop-off options at DonateMyDress.org or call your church's outreach program or a teacher or counselor at the local school a few months before communion season starts.
- Graduation Gown - help a student receive a diploma in style! Did you know that in many places, high school and college students who can't afford to buy a cap and gown aren't allowed to walk at graduation? They need to either get their diploma at the school office or have it mailed to them! To do: call your high school's office or nearby college or unioversity to ask if they have a service that accepts donations. If they don't? Post a "for free" ad on a local bulletin board or site like Craigslist.
article adapted from Woman's World 'Clutter Cures that Make the World a Better Place'