LuAnn Nagel carries a bag of clothing into the Sandusky County Share & Care past broken-down furniture left outside in deference to the sign overhead. Disposing of such items `costs us money we could use to help needy families,' she says.
FREMONT - Sandusky County Share & Care is an agency that helps needy families. But some people are treating its drop-off center like a garbage dump, which has caused major problems for the organization.
People regularly “donate” broken-down furniture, worn-out appliances, and even garbage to the agency, which accepts only clothing and household items.
The nonprofit agency cannot use furniture or appliances, director LuAnn Nagel said yesterday. Yet every week, such items are flung from trucks or dumped near the agency's door.
On Tuesday, a couch and two recliner chairs had to be picked up by a trash hauler, Mrs. Nagel said.
“It's been happening for 10 years,” she said with a sigh. “And as the cost of hauling away trash increases, it costs us money we could use to help needy families."
Goodwill and other agencies that help the needy have faced similar problems at their drop-off centers for years. Some agencies have had to close their drop-off centers because of dumping.
In Fremont, a sign in front of the Share & Care drop-off center spells out in large letters: “No Furniture, Mattresses, or Appliances. No Dumping!”
“Right below the sign, people dump mattresses, couches, old washing machines,” Mrs. Nagel said. “People who dump that stuff here hurt people who need help.''
The dumping of large junk is one problem Mrs. Nagel and 350 volunteers face. “Also, people leave clothing when we're not here, and others rummage through it and scatter it,” she said. “If it rains, it all gets ruined.”
And, oddly enough, well-meaning people put donated garments in a Dumpster, apparently thinking it is a clothing bin, Mrs. Nagel said. “If trash goes on top, donations go directly to the dump.”
Used clothing and household items are available for anyone at Share & Care's thrift store. Some leave a voluntary monetary donation if they can. The agency gave away shoes, coats, and other clothing to more than 6,000 people last year.
Share & Care pays for medical prescriptions and people's utilities, provides blankets, and performs other services for needy families. Money spent to haul away worthless furniture is not available for those services, Mrs. Nagel said.
The Share & Care center is two blocks from the Fremont police station, but Chief Monte Huss said there is little police can do about illegal dumping unless they see a couch thrown off a truck. “We know people drop off stuff they're not supposed to,” he said. “The place does a lot of good in the community but does have a problem. It's unfortunate some people take advantage of a place that helps others.
Chief Huss said he instructs officers to keep an eye on the area.
Unwanted junk dumped in the wrong places is not unique to Share & Care. The same thing happens at the St. Vincent DePaul Society in Fostoria, said Shannon Duque, a cashier there. That agency accepts used appliances that work and clean furniture in good shape. But unacceptable junk is dumped there almost every night, Ms. Duque said. “We find furniture with big rips, legs broken off, springs sticking out, chairs with legs missing. We get refrigerators without doors and washers that won't work. Some people think we're a dump.”
“To haul it away, it costs us money we could use to help needy people,” Ms. Duque said. “We have signs, People know what they shouldn't dump on our doorstep.”
Businesses also have dumping problems, Chief Huss said.
“People throw trash in Dumpsters at places such as McDonald's or Wal-Mart. If we catch them, they're liable for theft-of-service charges.”
If an agency has paid to have unwanted trash removed, one penalty would be for illegal dumpers, if identified, to pay for the hauling, he said.