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‘It’s been a journey’: Some Carroll County donation services see increase in contributions during pandemic

As the coronavirus pandemic surged around the country and began closing community centers, businesses, schools and other locations, local donation organizations have seen an increase in charitable contributions.

Goodwill Industries of Monocacy Valley serves eight retail stores within Carroll and Frederick counties and three of the eight locations are in Carroll — Eldersburg, Hampstead and Westminster. Amy Lyons, director of community engagement for Goodwill Industries of Monocacy Valley, said these locations have received a significant amount of donated goods during the pandemic.

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“We know that many people have been cleaning up their homes and garages,” Lyons said. “This pandemic has forced people to stay home and tackle projects they have put off prior to COVID, so people are getting in there and doing home cleanups and getting rid of clutter and other items they no longer use.”

Overflow items are stored in the organization’s warehouse and are distributed out to stores that need them, Lyons said. Some items are being withheld from distribution as the staff looks for alternative storage options until they items can be place in the retail stores.

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“We separate our donated items into separate bins to get them ready in our processing area,” Lyons said. “We get them ready for pricing, we tag them, and the hope is that we can get fresh products out there for shoppers to purchase and create a very pleasant shopping experience for people looking for a good bargain.”

Donations are collected, sorted, priced and readied for sale in the production room at Goodwill Industries of Monocacy Valley's Westminster Store Friday, Dec. 18, 2020.
Donations are collected, sorted, priced and readied for sale in the production room at Goodwill Industries of Monocacy Valley's Westminster Store Friday, Dec. 18, 2020. (Dylan Slagle / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Stephanie Halley, executive director of the Westminster Rescue Mission, said the nonprofit organization has received just as many, if not more, food donations during the pandemic. Thrift donations were difficult, however, because the Mission was forced to close its thrift store for a time.

“It’s been a journey,” Halley said. “In the beginning of COVID, we had a dip with our food program as everyone did because just like you went to the grocery store and couldn’t find mean, we couldn’t get meat either. There have certainly been things that have been difficult to get, but that was more in the beginning of the pandemic.

“Since then, a lot of that has worked itself out.”

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Westminster Rescue Mission works closely with the Maryland Food Bank as the largest re-distributor of food in Carroll County. The organization sends trucks to pick up food from restaurants and stores to bring back to the campus and distribute the items into the community through its food pantry.

The organization collects surplus food from over 40 local stores and restaurants to serve about 25 households with 125 pounds of food, on average, to each family, according to the Westminster Rescue Mission’s website.

The nonprofit’s Mission Store is a Goodwill-type model thrift location where people can donate clothing, home goods, and other supplies. Any money earned is given back to the Mission to support all of the organization’s programs.

Clients enrolled in the Westminster Rescue Mission’s Residential Recovery Program contribute to the program’s workforce development handing out food to members of the community and working in the Mission Store. Halley said since the Mission is a residential living community, the staff and its guests are operating as safely as possible during the pandemic.

“We have to be incredibly careful about visitation and people coming on campus and all of that,” Halley said. “Our workers aren’t going home at night, our workers are staying here and it has really hindered the donation process because we haven’t been able to accept donations as often and as frequently.”

The Mission Store is currently operating on a much smaller scale and has reduced its hours to coincide with the schedules of the organization’s clients, Halley added.

Westminster Rescue Mission also provides Blue Collection Boxes at eight locations in Finksburg, Hampstead, Monkton, Reisterstown and Westminster. These boxes are used to collect gently used clothing and shoes for people in need as well.

“There’s so much support that comes in through so many places and that really is financial support to be able to run and operate the organization,” Halley said. “We really have a generous faith community that provides us with financial support both through the churches themselves, but also from individuals.”

Halley said the Westminster Rescue Mission has received government support through relief programs designed to provide fiscal aid and support during the coronavirus pandemic, such as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27.

Donations to the Westminster Rescue Mission can be dropped off at the Donation Center Monday through Saturday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Donations of accessories, books, clothing, collectibles, CDs and DVDs, household items, shoes and more can be dropped off during posted hours at any Goodwill location.

“Our donors here have seen the need and they’re going above and beyond,” Halley said. “The truth is, we need more money because our costs have gone way up because of COVID. We haven’t been scrambling and that says a lot about our community.

“The people who support us continue to support us even if they’re having a rough time.”

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