SINGAPORE - The Salvation Army's booths across the island have been overwhelmed with bags of goods, as donations spike during the festive season.
The organisation usually receives up to 10 tonnes of donations in kind per day, and the number triples during the month of December, Red Shield Industries general manager Paul Chay told The Straits Times (ST) on Wednesday (Dec 29).
This year's total collection is also 24 per cent more than last year's and the highest amount since 2016, he added. Extra manpower is also required during this period to process the donations.
Red Shield Industries is the social enterprise arm of The Salvation Army, which processes donated items and sells those in good condition at the charity's family stores located across Singapore.
Mr Chay said the organisation appreciates the effort and generosity of donors who make the effort to donate usable and saleable items in good condition.
"We try to make full use of every donated item. For those that do not meet the standard, recyclable parts will be salvaged and the rest will be discarded," he said.
He added: "We would like to encourage donors to donate usable and saleable items in good condition."
For example, when donating clothes, they should not be stained or torn.
"A good self-check question to ask before donating would be whether your friend or relative will purchase the item after you have donated it," said Mr Chay.
He added that during the festive period, donors are encouraged to conduct their spring cleaning as early as possible and to send donated items directly to Tanglin Family Hub at 356 Tanglin Road.
On Wednesday evening at The Salvation Army's Praisehaven centre in Bukit Timah, housewife Lila Chua, 59, dropped off several black garbage bags stuffed with old unwanted clothes, saying she chose to donate to the charity as it helps the poor.
Electrical engineer Albert Chua, 48, also left at the donation booth a large luggage bag filled with clothes he said he had no need for and wanted to give away.
For private-hire vehicle driver Koh Thye Ho, 54, his donation was in the form of assorted household items ranging from bowls to cables. "Sometimes you buy too much stuff and you have extras of the same thing," he said in Mandarin.
The donors ST spoke to at Praisehaven were not surprised about the piles of donated goods spilling out of the booth, with one saying this was the norm.
All said they were donating items in decent, if not good, condition.
But workers on site, who declined to be identified, said that most items being dropped off were unusable.
They added that the surge in donations typically happens from December through to Chinese New Year. When it becomes too much to handle, items get forwarded to The Salvation Army's Malaysian centres instead, they said.
It is not just The Salvation Army - a clothes donation drive for Malaysian flood relief efforts also saw overwhelming response across five designated drop-off points, forcing organiser Gift Appeal Foundation to stop taking in items at some of the drop-off points.
The initiative ran from Dec 22 to Dec 27, but, according to Mr Eddie Oz, the overall in-charge listed as the main contact person, his team of volunteers was overwhelmed from the first day.
He said he received up to 500 WhatsApp messages and 300 calls daily from people asking about the suitability of clothes they wanted to donate.
Unfortunately, most of the clothes, towels and underwear dropped off were dirty, with obvious stains and smells, and even soiled in some cases.
"They're giving rubbish they intend to discard at the void deck anyway," said Mr Eddie. "Giving is easy, but more importantly it must be from the heart. It's also basic courtesy - if you're not going to wear it yourself, how do you expect others to?"
The same goes for migrant worker organisation ItsRainingRaincoats when it collects pre-loved items from the public.
"Our policy is we would never accept something for the workers that we won't accept for ourselves," said founder Dipa Swaminathan.
Noting that the organisation has seen a surge in the number of donations, she told ST there are multiple levels of gate-keeping in the donation process.
First, donors must get in touch with the organisation, which will then ask for photos and details of what is being donated. They will then be sent to drop-off points - volunteers' homes, in fact - where the items will be checked again and accepted only if they are useful to migrant workers.
"We're very, very careful about what we accept," said Ms Swaminathan. "We will only take things that we are sure they will be able to use."
National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser suggested possible reasons for the spike in donations in this period.
One would be that it is the annual house-cleaning season, where people throw out things meant for the garbage bin. Another is when they phase out things they do not need any more or to make way for new things.
"If, in the process of doing so, they found things that they believe others could use or find some use for, they would be only too happy to give them away. But this 'giving away' does not always have to be about being charitable, but could be about recycling," added Associate Professor Tan.
What you should donate
Items that are in good condition. For The Salvation Army, these include things that people would generally need or purchase, such as books, clothing, household items, musical instruments, antiques, sports equipment, toys and electrical appliances.
What you should not donate
Items that are not useful. These include clothes, shoes or bags that are stained or torn, electrical appliances that are damaged, broken furniture, and any other items that are damaged.
Where to donate*
The Salvation Army
Used items can be dropped off at Donation In Kind Booths around Singapore.
Donate furniture, clothes, collectibles and housewares to be sold at a store run by Minds, which supports people with intellectual disabilities and their families. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
This website - run by halfway house The Helping Hand and founded by Central Singapore Community Development Council - lists items needed by various social service agencies, and facilitates donations of second-hand and new beds, TV consoles, wardrobes among others.
Migrant worker organisations
The ItsRainingRaincoats organisation collects both new and pre-loved items - as long as they are in good condition and not broken, stained or torn - to be passed on to migrant workers.
The online marketplace platform has a #Blessings section gathering listings by users looking to donate their items to others. Fashion items, children's toys, books and furniture are commonly found here.
There are several such groups offering donations of clothes, children's books, toys and more. Examples include Blessings Only - Singapore, Blessings for Muslim Needy (Singapore), Sincere Blessing Singapore_Moms Only, sgfreecycle, and Recyclable stuff to Give Away (Singapore).
A permanent collection drive to recycle used sports shoes into materials that can be used for jogging tracks, fitness corners and playgrounds. A list of collection points can be found at this website.
*Not an exhaustive list.
Source: The National Environment Agency's website, The Straits Times