BANGOR, Maine — Capt. Timothy Clark, who runs the local Salvation Army chapter with his wife, Capt. Evelyn Clark, said people in the Bangor region have noticed the bright yellow Planet Aid collection boxes and some have mistakenly thought they benefit local charities, including the Salvation Army.
“Most people really expect that things are going to stay local,” he said. “I assume a lot of people think it’s local. That’s a key difference between us.”
Planet Aid collects clothing and shoe donations through the metal yellow boxes and sells the items in bulk to markets in Eastern Europe and Africa, with a portion of the funds going towards long-term community development programs in needy areas of the world. There are 10 new boxes in the Bangor area.
When someone makes a donation to the Salvation Army they are resold in the local thrift store and benefit people in the area, Clark said.
“All the money from those sales stays right here in greater Bangor,” the Salvation Army leader said. “Clothing that are donationed really make a big difference for a lot of our people in the community.”
Goodwill Industries of Northern New England has not seen any marked difference in donations since the boxes arrived in Maine around 2004, or since Planet Aid moved into eastern Maine, according to Jane Driscoll, a spokeswoman based in Portland.
“They have not impacted donations in our area,” she said. “Our donations have been strong. I hope that’s because they understand we’re local, and it’s a crucial system that support the local economy and local people.”
Goodwill, which offers several programs designed to assist people with economic and social independence, operates 18 stores in Maine and recently opened two new donation express centers in Scarborough and Yarmouth where people who make donations can get tax-deductible receipts for their gifts.
The used clothing and shoes donated to Planet Aid are not given away to the needy, they are resold in used clothing markets to raise funds to run the group’s humanitarian programs, Tom Meehan, chief financial officer for Planet Aid, said recently during a phone interview from the organization’s Holliston, Mass. headquarters.
“Not everybody shops like my daughter,” the charity’s financial officer said. “If you look at the world, only about 15 percent of the people shop that way.”
Used clothing collection groups, including Goodwill and the Salvation Army, sell the items they cannot sell in resale and thrift stores to rag dealers who recycle and reuse the materials.
The Salvation Army has a rag baler that is utilized by several small charities in the region, Clark said.
The rag dealers “recycle them into other purposes, and so it’s actually not going into the landfill, it’s going to be recycled, and we are paid a certain amount [of money] for those items,” the Salvation Army captain said.
The Salvation Army’s Bangor chapter serves more than 5,000 people a month in a number of different services, including providing from 100 to 120 people with a daily hot meal and assisting with heating and other types of fuel assistance, rental assistance and clothing. They also respond to local emergency disasters with a mobile canteen.
The Salvation Army’s Northern New England Division also owns Camp Sebago, which is host to around 200 children from Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire each week during the summer months.
Where donations go is important to the people who give, said Clark, who came to Bangor in 2010 after serving six years in Estonia — a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe — and in Chester, Pa. before that.
“In Bangor, it matters more than a lot of places,” Clark said. “Most donors who see the collection boxes really expect that things are going to benefit local people.”