Charity begins right here at home

Posted 01.21.08

Everybody loves a bargain. Some watch for store sales, collect reward points, or buy designer clothing at consignment stores. Others browse second-hand stores like Value Village and the Salvation Army.

It often has nothing to do with how much you can afford. Some of the women scrutinizing labels at consignment shops, hoping to find a dress a Rockcliffe matron wore to a recent gala, could afford to buy something new, but hate to splurge on an outfit they'll only wear once.

And you'll find people from all income levels at "thrift stores." One of my friends, planning a trip to Africa, decided to purchase everything she needed to take with her at Value Village. She returned from her trip with her suitcases full of local crafts, leaving the clothing behind for grateful villagers.

But it isn't always easy to find a home for things we want to dispose of.

When I bought a new recliner, I called the Ottawa Mission to pick up the old one. I scoured the house for other things I thought they could use. I found a clock-radio where the clock had stopped working but the radio was still fine, a radio/cassette where the radio tuner was gone but the cassette functioned well. I found a few cassettes to add as well.

My bathroom cabinet revealed many hair products I'd tried once and then abandoned (don't ask!). These weren't of particular interest to the Mission, whose beds are usually filled only by men (although they have a wonderful hospice for the terminally ill homeless of both sexes).

So I made up a carton for St. Joe's Women's Centre. Why have my donations gone to Ottawa charities? Primarily because those are the ones I've been able to locate. Also, they were willing to take things that couldn't be sold, which would otherwise have gone into the garbage.

Neither the City of Gatineau QC nor the CLSCC has a list of places where you can donate to those who can't afford to buy what they need.

St.Vincent de Paul and other charities will pick up furniture, but the only local group who gives donated items to the needy is Entraide familiale Outaouais. All the other organizations sell items they receive.

Entraide, however, has only one location, at 310B Notre Dame in (old) Gatineau. They're open from Monday through Thursday, and will pick up larger items if you give them a call, at 819-669-0686.

But there is no similar facility in the other sectors. Are there no families there who need this kind of assistance? Hardly! Entraide often has as many as twenty families across the entire region whose needs are urgent. Some have been displaced due to a fire or other natural disaster, are new immigrants who have few household possessions, or are temporarily homeless because of a family break-up or other problem.

They can't afford to shop at Value Village. So think of them as you put away unwanted Christmas gifts or make room for new clothes in your closets.

Barbara Floria Graham is the author of the 20th anniversary edition of Five Fast Steps to Better Writing and Mewsings/Musings. Her website: www.SimonTeakettle.com

Copyright © 2008 Barbara Floria Graham/Log Cabin Chronicles/01.08