Clothes donation boxes

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.

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