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Clothes donation boxes

Published: Mon, August 25, 2014 @ 12:05 a.m.

By jeanne starmack



If the city corrals clothing donation bins behind businesses instead of allowing them out front, they will go unnoticed, and the charities will suffer, a Planet Aid representative asserts.

Girard Mayor Jim Melfi has asked the city council to consider legislation that would force the boxes out of sight behind buildings and maybe even require fencing around them so they don’t become eyesores if people start piling bags of clothes up around them.

The companies that own the bins pay landlords a monthly fee to install them in front of businesses. The businesses have no say-so over whether or how long the boxes can remain.

Melfi has complained at council meetings that the boxes are a magnet for debris.

Planet Aid, whose tall yellow bins are a familiar sight in front of many businesses in the Youngstown area, is one of several companies that have them in Girard. Patrick Kearney, operations manager for Planet Aid’s Cleveland Office, said Planet Aid is not causing nuisance problems.

“We have a sophisticated database that tracks every phone call we receive, and we respond to any service call within 24 hours,” he said.

According to Melfi and zoning supervisor Pete Cardiero, however, it was a Planet Aid box that caused a problem at an abandoned gas station on Second Street several years ago.

Cardiero said he called Planet Aid’s Cleveland office several times after the gas station closed and asked the company to remove the box.

Cardiero said the company just kept saying it had the right to leave the box there because it had the property owner’s permission.

But the business was gone, the property was in foreclosure, and people kept bringing clothes and junk.

Melfi said debris from the box eventually got into people’s yards. The city removed the box, threw away the clothes and told the company it could pick up its box at the street department garage.

Kearney checked call records Friday and found one in 2010 from “Pete” from the city, who said the building was abandoned and there was a problem with theft. The company called back and left a message to set up a meeting.

He said the company got another call two weeks later that the box was in the garage.

He does not know if Planet Aid went to get it. The city no longer has it.

Kearney was not with the company in 2010, and said he does not know what happened at the old gas station. He said that even though the property went into foreclosure and even if it became bank-owned, the company still would have the right to keep its bin there until it was told by the new property owner that it had to remove it.

Kearney said he does not know why the city’s call wasn’t answered satisfactorily and that he’s sorry.

Kearney said there are other ways to regulate the donation boxes besides hide them, and Girard could follow other cities’ examples by having the companies provide copies of service agreements and liability insurance for each box. Girard also could require each box to be registered and maintained, he said.

Other companies that have clothing donation boxes in the city could not be reached to comment.


1sibylmere(3 comments)posted 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Today, Planet Aid is a highly efficient nonprofit business, recycling millions of pounds of used clothing nationwide every year. Throughout their growth, they have remained true to their nonprofit ideals to support sustainable development around the globe. The donations they received have gone a long way toward helping the poor find and grasp opportunities that lead to lasting improvements and a better quality of life.

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2walter_sobchak(1910 comments)posted 4 weeks, 1 day ago

I just take our old clothes to the Rescue Mission on Glenwood or MLK in Y-town or to Goodwill. No boxes; just a person who takes them inside and sorts them out.

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3Wade(5 comments)posted 4 weeks ago

To ‘cardinal’: Did you read the entire article? Think: the business was gone; no one there to keep an eye on things, yet people kept bringing clothes and junk, which started getting into neighboring yards. The bin was creating a nuisance, but Planet Aid obviously did nothing about it for a long time. It had to be dealt with. And I wouldn’t believe Planet Aid’s Patrick Kearney’s lame excuse as to why his company just couldn’t keep the bin tidy and “hassle free,” as explicitly promised on Planet Aid’s website.

I wonder, cardinal, how persnickety would you be about the city “stealing” a bin that was creating such a trash problem in *your* yard?

Planet Aid often claims that it takes better care of its bins than do its competitors, but what Mr. Kearney and crew don’t want you to know is that many media reports around the country indicate otherwise. In images culled from news stories, Planet Aid’s bins are shown with donations and trash piled up next to them. In some shots, bins appear to be packed full while items strewn nearby seem to have been accumulating for a while: https://db.tt/VA83yfjV

I’m not sure if Mayor Melfi’s solution to fence in the bins behind businesses is the best idea. The city may want to take a look at how other towns have dealt with the donation bin dilemma. But beware of any weak, gutless “sample legislation” that Planet Aid may try to foist on the council. In my opinion, this questionable nonprofit will try to play Girard like a Stradivarius violin if you let it.

It may be helpful to look at how other cities have dealt with this dilemma. The findings included in the bin ordinance passed in 2012 by the city of San Pablo, California, are most instructive: http://db.tt/YGNcKg1y

I have even more serious concerns about Planet Aid, which are detailed in my 2nd comment.

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4Wade(5 comments)posted 4 weeks ago

(My 2nd and last comment)

1) Planet Aid has faced a storm of media criticism for more disturbing reasons. For starters, the Chicago-based CharityWatch gave Planet Aid an “F” grade after analyzing its 2012 tax form and audited financial statements, determining that Planet Aid spent only 27% of its expenses on programs.

“Planet Aid's ‘Recycling’ Program, Debunked!” ― CharityWatch, 2013: http://tinyurl.com/po4x85m

2) A charitable spending ratio of 27% is certainly too low, but the actual figure may be far lower than even that. In 2009, WTTG News in Washington DC examined Planet Aid’s then most recent tax records and noticed many of the overseas charities Planet Aid claims to support have the *same address*. A list of South African charities was shown in example. But the South African Embassy told WTTG those groups are *not* registered charities.

WTTG’s investigation found that all of the charities listed in Planet Aid’s most recent tax return are controlled by the same parent organization — a group called International Humana People to People Movement, which, according to its own website, also controls Planet Aid. (Humana People to People is not affiliated with the health insurer 'Humana'.)

3) Worse, Danish prosecutors link Humana People to People and Planet Aid to an alleged cult called the Tvind Teachers Group. Five leaders of this group are Interpol fugitives wanted in their native Denmark in connection with a multimillion-dollar tax-fraud and embezzlement scheme.

“Kindness into Cash” ― WTTG News, Washington DC; 2009: http://tinyurl.com/nbgax5n

[More info in the above report's description box; click ‘Show more’ while on that page.]

Thanks for the chance to express my opinions. Please research before you donate.

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