Where to donate unwanted items in Sonoma County
As soon as the stay-at-home orders went into effect in March, people got to work. With virtually everything shut down, bored and restless Americans, between Netflix binges, started baking bread, planting spring gardens and fiendishly cleaning out closets, cupboards, drawers and garages.
There was one glitch in the act of discarding excess furniture, clothes that no longer fit and books that already had been read. All the thrift stores were closed. Online marketplaces on Facebook, Craigslist and NextDoor offered about the only outlet for offloading all that extra stuff. And for those with boxes of random belongings, listing things item by item was not practical.
Now there is hope for relief for those who have been holding on to boxes of items to donate. Starting in June, thrift stores have been slowly reopening, welcoming the fruits of the pandemic purge.
The options are more limited than they were pre-pandemic. No all thrift stores have reopened. Popular charity thrifts like Heavenly Treasures in downtown Santa Rosa, which benefits The Living Room support organization for homeless women, and The Assistance League shop in Railroad Square, remain closed.
But one of the biggest thrifts, The Redwood Gospel Mission store on Piner Road, is taking in massive volumes of donations, including furniture. Many Goodwills are back in business and boutique shops that support niche charities such as Pick of the Litter, which helps feral cats, are welcoming donations and customers.
On Monday Sutter Hospice Thrift on Cleveland Avenue will open to both retail and donations after a five-month hiatus. Other Sutter Hospice thrifts in Sebastopol and Rohnert Park also are preparing to reopen.
Surge of donations
Brian Benn, manager of Pick of the Litter, said the shop was inundated when they reopened in June and donations have been flooding in at twice the usual rate since then.
“It’s been crazy to say the least. We had a huge volume when we reopened. That first week we had people lined up in the parking lot at all times. And it’s stayed busy. Actually, we closed one day last week so we could stop the flow and catch up.”
At one point the Pick of the Litter volunteer who sorts clothing was completely hidden behind a giant wall of donations.
“She just disappeared into the clothing,” Benn said. “But we were finally able to excavate enough clothing to get to the bottom.”
They even brought in a rented storage container to hold the overage from their warehouse next to the retail shop on Piner Avenue in Santa Rosa.
The thrift operation, he said, has been hampered by the number of volunteers who are older and too much at risk to come to work, a problem other charity thrifts also are facing. But they're managing with their 13 employees.
Marketed as a higher-end thrift, Pick of the Litter is pickier than some thrift shops. They won’t take holiday items, stuffed animals or picture frames, for instance. As a rule they don’t take large furniture. They don’t have the room.
But they do accept household items, clothing, pet products, decorative items, fabric, art, office supplies and better-quality children’s toys. Like many thrifts, they can’t accept bed pillows and mattresses, large appliances, strollers and car seats, old TVs, encyclopedias — no one wants those — and golf clubs. Check their website for a complete list (forgottenfelines.com).
They are open for donations from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. six days a week and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.
The Redwood Gospel Mission has a large thrift store down the street, a virtual emporium that includes large furniture. And as long as it’s clean and in working condition, and clothing is unstained and with no need for repairs, they’ll take it.
Donations since the shop reopened have tripled, said Manager David Perez.
“Since we reopened we’ve been getting a crazy load,” Perez said of all the donations pouring out of closets, cupboards, kitchen cabinets, garages and storage units since the pandemic hit, leaving people with time on their hands to tidy up. “But I would also say we’ve doubled or tripled the customers coming into the store as well.”
The shutdown of so many businesses left many people struggling to get by. Perez said they’ve had to hire several employees just to meet the demand for second-hand items.
The shop gets donations from Costco, Walmart and Target, which send over new but returned items, making it a picker’s paradise at times.
But they also have a huge need for used household goods, office supplies, bric-a-brac, kitchen items, tableware and clothing.
“We don’t take certain things, like window blinds and window screens,” he said. “But we’re not that picky. We only ask that it be in good condition.”