Yesterday, a friend sent me a link to an article. The article was titled “10 Things Food Banks Need and Won’t Ask For.”

Since I lead the food and clothing ministry at my church, my friend was interested to know if the article rang true to me.

It’s giving season.

Next week we will “give thanks” for what we have and then turn around and spend the next few weeks giving away our time to Christmas celebrations and giving away money to retailers.

And what I have come to learn first-hand from my job…this season spurs people to give to charitable organizations. Some of the donations are a blessing. Some…not so much.

In light of my friend’s question, I was reminded how much I have learned about giving in the past 2 years of leading a food and clothing ministry.

I used to use a phrase when I donated. Now the phrase makes me cringe.

“Well, if someone doesn’t have _______________ they will appreciate this even though it is _____________.”

Here’s the truth.

Just because someone doesn’t have a coat, it doesn’t mean that a coat with a zipper broken is a huge blessing to them.

Just because someone doesn’t have socks, doesn’t mean that socks with holes in them would make their heart smile.

And for goodness sakes…just because someone doesn’t have shoes for their child, doesn’t mean that they would be proud to put my son’s dirty, worn out shoes on their son’s feet.

Here’s a few things I have learned in my short two years of running a food and clothing ministry….

Top 3 donations in the “Thanks, but No Thanks” category:

1. Boxes of leftover garage sale quarter items. If it doesn’t sell for a quarter at a yard sale, it likely has no value to a donation center. Do your donation center a favor. Find something else to do with your leftover garage sale 25 cent box besides dropping them off at a donation site.

Each week our sorting team wastes valuable time sorting out items that should have been thrown away by the person who donated it.  Just last night I filled a trash bag full of used kid’s meals toys, dirty shirts, shoes with holes in them, and a half used candle.

Rule of thumb when donating leftover yard sale items: Your trash is likely trash to other people too.

2. Expired food. Rusted cans of food. Thanks but no thanks. Great donation centers want to be proud of the quality of the things they offer to guests. Rule of thumb for donating: If you wouldn’t want to feed it to your family, it is likely not something that donation centers would want to offer as food to their guests.

3. Broken anything. Every week we throw out chipped dishes, broken toys, and appliances that don’t work.

I grew up in a preacher’s home. As a child my parents hosted many ministers from around the world into our home for dinner. There are stories that are almost universal. One is the broken piano story. It seems that in the 70s and 80s people used to drop out of tune or broken pianos off at churches as a ‘donation.’ From a young age, I was taught that broken donations are not a blessing at all. Often they seem more like a curse than a blessing.

99 percent of the time…broken = trash.

I would love for our generation to be the tide that turns the mentality on donating. Let’s all agree to not use donation centers as a place to dump off our junk and feel good about ourselves for “donating.” Let’s be honest. A lot of the time donating our stuff is more about getting it off of our hands than giving it away to someone in need.

How about let’s all do this….

Let’s all stop buying junk that we don’t need or use that ends up in our garage sales that ends up in donation centers . Instead let’s start buying things to give to donation centers.

I know some of you are thinking…”I wish I could. We are on a tight budget and just don’t have money to purchase items to give regularly.”

I get it. I have been there. I know what it feels like for there to be more month than money.

So, let me bring truth to your heart that desires to be generous.

Find a donation center near you. Ask them if there is an item that they run short of often that would be within your weekly or monthly budget.

If you can spare a dollar a month…you can donate something valuable.

If your kids have a piggy bank with only 4 quarters in it…they can donate something of worth to donation centers. And as a mom, I highly recommend you not just have your child give the dollar to the donation center. Use it as a tangible lesson. Take them to a dollar store. Have them buy a bottle of shampoo. Or a toothbrush. Or a bar of soap.

Do this every month. Can you imagine if all of our kids grow up thinking it is normal to buy a bar of soap to donate each week? It will be normal to them. And how refreshing in 20 years to have our adult kids keeping donation center shelves full of USEFUL donations.

The article my friend sent me has some good ideas of what most donation centers would love to get as regular donations from people. . .

So, as the giving season approaches, my heart longs to see our generation give….and give well.

My favorite volunteers this summer.  Watching seeds of compassion begin to bud in their hearts is worth getting cussed out.

My favorite volunteers.  Praying we raise a generation of kids who give.  And give well.