Donations… Looking For, Accepting Now, BUT NOT THAT

Not that long ago, I was busy packing up our house for our epic move 2 miles down the road. I took the opportunity to consider each toy, each child’s clothing, my own clothing, and a myriad of other closets’ contents for their appropriateness and worthiness. Moving is a great time to purge. I started to run out of steam however when I got to the bathroom drawers. It was packing day and the movers were downstairs wrapping up my kitchen while I began throwing medicines and lotions and medical supplies into a box with a wing and a prayer. Not so pretty on the other side! Even though we moved all of a couple of miles, things managed to spill, leak, seep. Sticky and wet, I pulled the bottles and boxes of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies out, tried to discern expiration dates, and either pitched or wiped them off and stored them in neat and tidy plastic drawer organizers. The extra effort was worth it! I can find what I need in a pinch… and with young children underfoot, we are always a pinch away from disaster.

I was reminded of this as I read Chris and Jack’s account of their recent trip to South Africa. In the account, Chris explains one of the difficulties that clinics like Lily Medical Centre and 1000 Hills faces: “One of the first things I noticed walking into the [Lily Medical] clinic was a pile of boxes that looked like garbage off to the side of the pharmacy. I asked about it and offered to clean it up. Sister Noluthando told me that they were donations that had been dropped off but had to be sorted because a lot of it was unusable…. It turns out that clinics like this can become dumping grounds for drug stores and other medical clinics or hospitals looking to get rid of things that they wouldn’t use. This clinic as well as 1000 Hills has shelves and shelves of cough syrups of various types. The reason is if one breaks in a case, it ruins the labeling of all the bottles and they can’t be sold. So these donations have to be cleaned and dates checked. There were also boxes of hair dye and weight loss solutions and pills. This was why our duffle was not received with great enthusiasm on Monday. When she [Sister} saw what was actually in it she was practically in tears. She… let me do inventory in the pharmacy… [which] gave me an opportunity to see what they had, what they use frequently and how low they were on antibiotics. We already mentioned the Ibuprofen and Aspirin being down to their last 10 each so I felt like even if we couldn’t give them antibiotics, what we were able to bring was helpful. As the kids like to say, when we left Sister was ‘vedy, vedy heppy!’”

From my formative years, I can remember one or two garage sales. My brother and I sold lemonade out on the driveway, and because we lived in Amish country, we were very excited about the horses that were grazing in our front yard while their owners shopped. But my dad emphatically believed that garage sales were nothing more than the passing off of junk from one family to another. Please, if you are a self-professed garage sale stalker, I am not meaning to offend. There are plenty of really good bargains at garage sales and recycling clothing is a very good idea. This was just my dad’s view and therefore we rarely made the effort to hold a garage sale. Donating goods, on the other hand, we’re quite good at. I think I receive at least one request for donated goods to support one organization or another at least once a week. How about you? And what do you donate?

In our small city, people leave their donated items on the street in bags with the donation request cards taped on the bags. Sometimes the bags spill over or a creature comes out of the Zone 7 waterways and peruses the contents or maybe there is an item that just doesn’t conveniently fit into a bag. I find myself drawn in a mysterious if not morbid way to glance at the items. “Hmmmm, could I use that?” or “What does that tell me about their life?” seem to be my two primary thoughts. Sometimes I see an item and I think, “Good heavens! That belongs in the junk pile not the donation pile!” It just makes me wonder what people are thinking when they make donations. Apparently, according to Chris and Jack, this same question is pertinent to large hospitals and drug manufacturers and retailers, too.

Chris mentions that Sister Noluthando was “practically in tears” when she unpacked the duffle from CompassioNow. That’s because what Chris and Jack brought over was in good condition and much needed. They brought over Nature Made Vitamins donated by Pharmavite, the company Jack works for; eyeglasses donated by CareHarbor; wound care items such as sutures, bandages, surgical gloves, sponges and dressings from Giving Children Hope (CompassioNow made a monetary donation to this organization and they in turn gave CompassioNow the much needed wound care supplies which they collect from donating hospitals); medical supplies donated by Conejo Free Clinic in Thousand Oaks, CA, where Chris volunteers as a Pediatric Nurse; as well as lots and lots of bottles of antacids, antidiarrheals, Tylenol, Neosporin, and ibuprofen purchased by CompassioNow from Costco and Target to name a few things. CompassioNow coordinated the collection of these items… in total 250 lbs. of supplies. Chris and Jack funded the actual trip themselves.

Chris and Jack also carried over around 125 pairs of warm, rubber-tread socks, the kind you receive when you spend time as a patient in a hospital. Chris has a nurse friend at the Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks, CA, who collects these socks from patients who don’t care to take their socks home. Instead of throwing them away, Chris takes the socks and washes them. She used them to protect the supplies she carried over to South Africa in 5 large duffle bags and then distributed them to people she met at the two clinics… people who have no coverings for their feet even in freezing weather.

There IS a difference in donations. Some just create more work, are worthless, or are not appropriate. Seriously, is donating weight loss pills and hair dye to clinics in rural Africa where food and water are scarce really all that effective? Or wise?

On the other hand, timely and appropriate donations can make a world of difference. About the supplies they took to 1000 Hills, Jack writes: “Dawn [Leppan] was very moved by the supplies provided, commenting regularly about how certain items would be helpful…. We also got to witness some of the impact of the supplies delivered. Dawn gave a pair of reading glasses to a grandmother there. She was very happy but her glasses started steaming up. Dawn asked what was wrong and the grandmother replied that she could finally see well but she had no money to pay for them. Dawn said that they were free and the grandmother was overcome with joy.”

If I may be so bold, may I remind you that through your support of Compassion Tea… your membership or your purchase of tea… you are helping to support the work of CompassioNow. The people of Africa need the kind of thoughtful donations CompassioNow provides, and you… yes, little old you!… can help us send them joy and comfort.

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  1. Donations… Looking For, Accepting Now, BUT NOT THAT « compassiontea

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