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Donation bins generate unease among local thrift stores
donation bin
Donation bins, such as this one located in the CVS Pharmacy parking lot on Geer, have sparked worry from local thrift shops who fear community members will drop their unwanted items into them rather than into their stores. - photo by ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal

After the appearance of numerous clothing collection bins around Turlock, local charities are raising concern that the for-profit companies behind them are taking money out of the community and into their own pockets.

The green and blue clothing collection bins can be found in a number of locations throughout the city, including Monte Vista Crossings, downtown Turlock and in parking lots of businesses like CVS Pharmacy. Placed in cities throughout the U.S. by companies TexGreen and, the large, metal boxes feature phrases like, “Together we can make a difference,” and designate the bins as donation centers.

The for-profit organization TexGreen collects shoes, clothes, hats, belts and other clothing items in their green bins. The clothes are then sorted in the U.S., but are sold in Europe. Off Center Thrift & Gift board member Linda Tell believes that the donation bins could hurt local nonprofit organizations, such as Off Center and Sacred Heart Thrift Shop, by taking away clothes that could be donated to their causes.

“I think that they pose a threat to us,” said Tell. “To deliver to us, you have to pull up and walk in with all of your things. The bins are very simple – you just walk up and dump your stuff.”

Off Center has become a philanthropic powerhouse in the Turlock community since its establishment in 2007, donating over $600,000 to local nonprofits to fill a variety of needs including sober grad nights, crisis centers and theater productions. Every item donated to the local thrift shop makes it easier for the charity to raise funds, making the donation bins a concern.

“Instead of placing your clothes in these bins, I would say try a local charity,” said Tell.

At Sacred Heart Thrift Shop, Director Audrey Harig has similar concerns.

“If you don’t know who you’re giving to, you shouldn’t be giving to them,” she said.

According to the City Planning Department, there is no permit required for companies like TexGreen to place donation bins around town. Harig said this is something that should be changed.

“If I have to have a license to operate, they should too,” said Harig.

While the bins do threaten organizations like Sacred Heart and Off Center, Harig also worries about their contribution to the city’s image.

“They’re a hazard because they don’t get picked up regularly,” she said. “They’re just inviting people to break into them, which they do, and then the clothes and whatever else is thrown in there just lays in the street.”

As the donation bins are in town legally, all that local thrift stores can do is rely on the community to continue supporting local businesses.

“Donate locally,” said Harig. “We have a community that is in need of things. Donate to the thrift stores that are going to help here.”