When Suze Nigl, a volunteer at the Hood River Valley Christian Church thrift store, came to the site on the morning of Aug. 21, she was greeted by mounds of trash.
“I literally found a dump site in the parking lot,” she said. “I could not even get to the donation box.”
Despite signs clearly posted saying, “Do not dump mattresses,” and “Please do not leave beds, furniture, large toys, infant seats and cribs,” individuals had dumped a stained, full-size mattress, a recliner that was broken in two, a “disgustingly dirty” infant seat, a broken end table, a large suitcase filled with wet, mildewed items and another bag filled with dirty clothes.
The mess had been found by Dave Nash, who drives past the thrift store each morning to check for donations. Bruce Holmson serves as property and grounds “guru” to keep the front of the store clean and by taking items to the dump; Geoff Speidel also helps.
“Individuals who ignore the signs are merely using our thrift store for their personal dumping grounds and we have to pay the dumping fees,” Nigl said.
The thrift store is a ministry of the church, overseen by the Christian Women’s Fellowship (CWF), and does not have funds in the budget to pay for dumping fees. Volunteers took two pickup trucks full of the trash to the transfer station.
“It is very disappointing to find the donation box filled with soiled and stained clothing, broken toys, puzzle pieces missing, broken and/or chipped dishes, or electronics missing component parts,” she said.
It’s especially disappointing because the funds are earmarked for both community and church projects.
“Our church is very involved in the Warming Shelter and its laundry program,” Nigl said. “The thrift store provides vouchers for clothes, socks, underwear and shoes. Our church works at the FISH Food Bank every seven weeks and they know we have vouchers if there is anyone receiving food that also needs clothing, etc.”
The CWF also paid for the stained-glass window in the church sanctuary, replaced the worn dishwasher in the kitchen and purchased new dinnerware, she said. Thrift store proceeds from the first Saturday of each month are earmarked for the church’s youth fund.
“We gladly accept clean, gently used clothing and household items,” she said.
Adrian Chaton, manager of the Hood River Valley Adult Center thrift store, is sympathetic to this latest round of dumping at Valley Christian.
“I understand about the Christian Church,” she said. “Every time we have to take (trash) to the transfer station, it costs money.
“We’re dropped mattresses and tires — which we don’t take — and unusable items, dirty items, broken items,” she said. HRVAC, too, has signs specifying no mattresses and no dumping.
“All of our income — and we’re all volunteers, including me — all of our money goes directly to the Meals on Wheels program at the center,” Chaton said.
Some items are also donated back to the community: They collect jackets and warm clothes for the homeless, and have donated t-shirts to the Non-Smoking May Street project, for example.
“Our donations are great, but, like the Christian Church, we are not the transfer station,” she said.
Chaton said that clean, workable and resalable items should be dropped off at the HRVAC thrift store during business hours, Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. This not only helps with dumping issues, but with the problem of items being ransacked before they even make it into the shop.
“We’re grateful for all the donations that do come in,” she said. “People are very generous with us.”