Which charities actually give clothes to the poor?

Years ago on some news show (I’m thinking 60 Minutes but could have been 20/20) there was a story about a big, well-known charity which revealed that they didn’t give (or even sell cheaply) clothes donations. Instead everything was simply bundled into bales and sold to be pulped or shipped over seas.

Currently I’m helping dispose of the possessions of a dead relative, and he left a ton of clothes. Much of it is in excellent condition (for example, a suit I know he purchased to attend a funeral last year and never had a second occasion to wear) plus he tended to buy in bulk so there are things like still-in-the-wrappers six packs of underwear and socks and at least a dozen shirts that still have the price tags on them, and on and on.

I’d really like to see these clothes be of use to someone. I’ve got on hand mailings soliciting donations, including clothing, from several charities – one for Epilepsy, one for Disabled Veterans, one for Vietnam Veterans. Does anyone know if any of those genuinely channel clothing to the poor? (Or any other charity – I don’t care about religious affiliation or which disease they support.)

Or do you know of a way I can find out? Something more trustworthy than the word of a volunteer on their phone line, I mean.


Look for someplace that has a place where people can get a working wardrobe for free or very cheaply. Other than that, I’d take the clothes down to a charity thrift store. Even though the thrift store will sell the clothes, rather than give them away, they will probably be able to sell most of your relative’s stuff if it’s in good condition.

I was going to say the same thing, or take them to a consignment shop that takes men’s clothes (honestly, most of them don’t) and give that money to charity. That’s if there are no shelters for men and/or families in your area. If there are, they would be happy to have them.

The clothing that is pulped is generally not salable or even wearable, even to people overseas. You’d be surprised at how much of the stuff donated to thrift stores is really, truly garbage. :mad:

Look for a small local charity rather than a big name organization.

Some donated clothing has to be pulped or sent overseas. Part of the license agreement for sports memorabilia is they can’t sell a product or otherwise distribute it in the United States if it isn’t “true”.

So last February, they had thousands of shirts and caps ready that said “San Francisco 49ers: Super Bowl XLVII Champions” - and as soon as the game ended those shirts and caps became unsellable. The company has to either pulp them or donate them to an overseas charity as a tax deduction.

I read an article once, saying about how much junk people donate (clothes, blankets, other stuff) that is truly unusable junk, they they just end of having to spend money to have hauled to the dump. Yeah, I see that’s counterproductive. Lately, I’ve noticed that major charities like Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc., won’t even take anything unless it’s in sellable condition as-is. That applies even to things like furniture.

They aren’t into doing any repair work, like a lot of us always thought.

Okay, I’ve been guilty of tossing mildly (?) junk clothing to them, thinking they could patch it up and sell it or give it to freezing homeless people. So I’m guilty. But what do most of us Teeming Millions know? I thought I was doing somebody a favor. What do I know? I don’t know when clothing is too far gone to be any good.

I volunteer (in NZ) at a Habitat For Humanity charity store. About half of the clothing and bedding we receive is not saleable. Dirty, torn, stained, broken zips etc.

The rejected clothing is bundled up and taken away by a chap who sorts through it. Some goes to Pacific Island nations where it will be used and the rest is pulped - although I’m not clear on why.

Years ago cotton and woollen clothing was pulped to make high quality linen paper. 30 years ago when I was a young lawyer, linen paper was used for all of our letters. However I haven’t seen it for over a decade.

The only ones I know of are St Vincent de Paul and Goodwill , both of which have thrift stores although SVDP may also provide clothes directly to the needy. Other than that, the best way to find out is probably to ask a related charity- just like my mechanic is likely to know a good body shop, workers at a food pantry or shelter are likely to know can refer clients for other help.

I personally would be careful about donating to a place that’s too small - there’s a church nearby that basically sells the right to use its name to a profit making company. A slip gets left at your door saying St So and So’s church will be collecting Tuesday- except it’s not St So and So doing the collecting and the clothing isn’t being given directly to the needy or sold inexpensively in thrift shops to fund other charitable works. It’s being sold in for-profit second hand stores and as rags.

All three you mention run thrift stores - the salable clothing is resold - the purpose is to sell the clothing to fund their charitable efforts and provide jobs at the thrift store.

Around here there is an organization that gives out professional clothing to women, I don’t know about men. If you want clothing to go to the homeless, you need to get it to a shelter. It will be picked through there and anything not taken will get sent to another charity probably to be pulped.

St. Vincent de Paul gives vouchers for clothing (and other household items) to people who can’t afford to buy it in their shops.

Do you have a Dress For Success organization near you? They outfit people for interviews.

Churches can certainly find someone who would be able to use nice clothing. Shelters can certainly use the daily use stuff (like socks, underwear, shirts, etc.). I would encourage you to find a transitional housing organization rather than a shelter though - people in transitional housing are (for the most part) on their way to self-sustainability, rather than living on the streets. They’ll benefit most from work-appropriate clothing.

I volunteered with a church charity that has a clothes closet. Anyone can come in every few months and get two outfits. They often have toys for kids and toiletries/small furniture and books too.

Give it directly to a homeless shelter! What an excellent idea, and it hadn’t occurred to me.

I’m ashamed to say I don’t know the names of any, but there have got to be some in Lowell, and in Boston if not.


They do here as well, but apparently not all do.

Some of the other organizations mentioned do the same - I think the Salvation Army both gives out clothes AND runs a thrift store here. But if you want to make sure your clothes are going to the homeless and not being resold, giving to a shelter is your best bet. When my brother in law died, my mother in law went through the same thing, she hated the idea that she’d give his clothes to charity and they’d end up at a thrift store where they’d get bought by someone who would take well maintained clothes and resell them for a profit on eBay.

(Me, I’m a “who will pick it up, junk and all, and get it out of my house” person. Yes, that means some stuff is so well worn that it gets pulped (which is still a useful purpose for clothes - better than the landfill), but it means that sometimes I’m donating something that will sell even at thrift store prices for $50.)

Dress for Success for that suit though.

Dress for Success is one such group, but it looks like they only work with women. Presumably there are similar groups that work with men.

I truly don’t mean this as an attack or swipe at you, Senegoid, but I’ve never understood this attitude and it really bothers and saddens me. I only donate clothing that is in good enough physical condition that I would wear it myself. It may be the wrong size for me or not my style, but those aren’t defective qualities like a big stain or rips or holes.

I just … If the condition of the item is bad enough that I won’t wear it anymore and I wouldn’t give it to a friend or family member to wear, why would I donate it to the poor/homeless? Poverty is already seen as a personal or moral failing in our society and it just feels like this is an example of how that attitude can subconsciously influence us.

Well, I’ve posted this before. I enjoy shopping at thrift shops, and I’m not just looking for stuff to use as-is, but stuff to repurpose, and I’m not the only one. Quilters are very happy to buy clothes that have stains or holes, as we can cut around those problems. Knitters and crocheters frequently buy knitted garments just for the yarn, which they unravel and reuse. Yes, a lot of people are going to want to use the clothes as-is, or with minor tailoring or repair, but a lot of us enjoy finding things to use as materials. So that stained cashmere sweater with a huge stain on it might not be worn as it’s sold, it might get unraveled, dyed, and then knitted into something else. The charity gets money, and the sweater stays out of the landfill, and the knitter is happy.

That reminds me of a story I read shortly after the movie “E.T.” came out about some counterfeit E.T. toys that had to be destroyed. :frowning:

There are several churches in my area that do clothing giveaways too, usually once or twice a month. IDK what kind of restrictions they have. There are also several organizations in the area that give vouchers to people who have had some kind of disaster, usually a house fire, so they can get clothing and household supplies at no cost to them.

Another thing. The OP mentions used clothes being shipped overseas. But this can be bad for the economies of poor countries, as the donated clothes are competing with domestically produced goods. So even though it seems like a generous thing to send old clothes overseas, the local economy would be strengthened if instead people wore stuff made locally, and perhaps from locally sourced cotton. Here’s a CNN story on the idea.

The other thing is that the charity SELLS the old clothes to a textile recycler, and that money is used as part of the operating budget. A large charity isn’t “burdened” by these clothes, they are a part of their revenue stream. (Charities that are burdened because they don’t do the volume, want “clean, gently used clothes in good repair” - don’t burden them with rags - but not every charity will turn up their noses at rags).

The textile recycler turns the clothes into everything from paper to carpet padding.

I didn’t search much, but the little I did, a tonne of charity clothes is worth about 700 GBP right now.