AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Victorian-era jewelry, fountain pens and even a piano — albeit unusual, they were welcome donations at local Goodwill stores.
But some donations that make their way to drop boxes aren’t so welcome and could even cause a danger to employees.
A couple of weeks ago, a Goodwill store in Wisconsin had to be evacuated after a live cluster bomblet and ammunition were found among the donations. The bomb squad was called to safely remove them.
Bomblets are part of cluster bombs which contain multiple explosive submunitions. Used during battle, the bombs can be dropped from planes or fired from the ground.
While local workers haven’t experienced anything quite like that, they have dealt with potentially harmful donations that have been left in boxes, including loaded guns. At least twice last year, employees called police to the store in Liberty after finding guns, one of which had no make, model or serial number.
Joseph Catullo, Jr., marketing and relationship coordinator for Youngstown Area Goodwill Industries, said weapons such as guns are among items that are not accepted as donations. Employees will contact police if they find such weapons. The company has guidelines of what can and cannot be donated posted outside of its donation centers to remind donors of these rules.
While some of the unacceptable items may not be a surprise — fireworks, food and medications — other items like blinds, gas-powered tools and infant equipment are also not taken due to environmental and safety regulations. Workers also once stumbled upon a kitten left outside the donation area and said donors should not leave live animals at their stores.
It’s important that donors follow the rules for donations as having to discard improper donations can lead to additional costs to the company, Catullo said.
“It does cost us to discard in other ways, which tampers into our funds for all of our missions and everything we’re trying to do for the community,” he said.
Catullo stressed that the stores accept most items. He said employees are grateful for items such as home decor, kitchenware, artwork, collectibles and clothing, all of which can be sold in stores to generate revenue for the company’s mission of providing employment training and job placement services for people in the community.
“It’s not just a retail store. We also get out into the community in other ways as well,” Catullo said.
Workers say while they’ve had to deal with people dumping off trash and other improper items, they are also surprised by the giving nature of other donors. They’ve found designer-label purses, brand-new home goods and vintage Christmas items that are able to be put out on shelves for much below the retail value of the items.
A donated piano now has a prime spot at the front of the Austintown store and is used as a talking piece and playing spot after it was featured in a viral video earlier this year.
“It’s turned into a hot item. Right now it’s just for display only, but daily people come in and play it and just have fun with it. And that’s one of the, I know sometimes we get unique items, and that’s definitely one of them,” Catullo said. “… Some of the other unique items we get, too, are Victorian-era jewelry, diamond-encrusted watches have been found, ink pens, fountain pens, just all kind of great stuff. Every day, you never know what you’re going to get.”
Workers say donations also provide another benefit — it keeps those items out of landfills, giving them a second life with a new owner.
Those at Goodwill recommend that anyone who wishes to donate does so during normal business hours, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Those with questions about specific items can contact any of the local stores or the corporate office. Contact information for each location is listed at goodwillyoungstown.org.
You can find more information about what items can and cannot be donated below: