Thrift stores around Maine, including The Salvation Army in Bangor, are once again accepting donated items after being closed for up to three months due to COVID-19. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik | BDN

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For some Mainers who found themselves stuck at home, cleaning out attics, closets and more was a good way to pass time this spring. However, the same pandemic that was keeping them at home had also led thrift shops and relief agencies to temporarily shut their doors and stop accepting donated items.

If you are one of those who now has piles of clothing, furniture, toys, dishes or other household items ready to be donated, you aren’t alone. But you can do something about it now.

“Spring is always our heaviest donation time but this was unprecedented,” said Heather Steeves, external communications manager for Goodwill Northern New England. “Everyone was cleaning out their homes, garages and basements during quarantine and looking around deciding what they can keep and what can I do without.”

Here’s who is now open accepting donations and how you can safely drop things off.

Who is accepting donations

Currently Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity and The Salvation Army are accepting donations at their locations around Maine. Smaller thrift stores may also be open for donations but people should call ahead to see if they are open for drop offs and what — if any — COVID-19 protocols are in place.

With the adverse effect the pandemic has had on the economy over the past several months, people need these agencies now more than ever, Steeves said.

“A lot of people have seen their household budgets cut and we are seeing shoppers we never have before,” Steeves said. “I hope we can meet their needs and that they are happy with what they are finding.”

What is being accepted

Who is accepting what currently varies by organization. But if you have something to donate, odds are one of these agencies will accept it.

If you have small appliances or other household items, you can drop them off at one of the six Habitat for Humanity ReStore retail outlets in Maine, Goodwill or at a Salvation Army location.

If you are looking to donate clothing, shoes, books, dishes, small electrical items and lamps, they are currently accepted at Goodwill and Salvation Army.

Donations of toys and linens can be dropped off at Goodwill.

Oversized items including furniture and large household appliances can be donated at The Salvation Army or to a Habitat for Humanity ReStore location.

For those who went all-in on organizing and home renovations, Habitat for Humanity is also accepting donations of new or gently used building materials, cupboards, cabinets and bureaus.

What’s changed about donating

Depending on where you are donating, there may or may not be COVID-19 protocols in place and staff members at the agencies said a great deal of time and effort has been put in to design safety measures.

Other than not accepting toys or linens at this time, The Salvation Army has not changed its drop-off procedures.

But Habitat for Humanity and Goodwill have, updating times and procedures with an eye on keeping staff and those donating safe.

“There was a lot of activity between staff and our board of directors with Zoom meetings and teleconferencing to figure out the best way to re-open,” said Laura Duplissis, communication and volunteer manager for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland. “We put a lot of planning and forethought into our reopening.”

At the Habitat stores, staff is on hand to assist with unloading items, but masks must be worn by the people dropping things off at all times throughout the process.

If possible, donated items should be cleaned as much as possible before dropping them off to a ReStore location.

“We have a limited staff and it makes it a bit easier on them if things are clean when they arrive,” Duplissis said. “Other than that, the drop-offs are pretty simple and as they always have been in the past before COVID.”

Goodwill is only accepting items Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., limiting the number of people in the unloading zones and completely eliminating face-to-face contact between donors and Goodwill staff or volunteers. People should also come with some patience, Steeves said.

“People can still drive up to a location, but only one car at a time is allowed at the unloading area,” Steeves said. “There will be no staff to help them unload.”

As people unload their items at Goodwill, they are asked to sort them into three different categories: soft goods like textiles; hard goods like lamps; and glass. They will then have the option of using their smartphones or other mobile device to scan a QR code that will allow them to print a donation receipt for tax purposes.

Saturdays seem to be the busiest for dropping off donations at the Goodwill stores, Steeves said, and people should come expecting a bit of a wait in line.

“Fridays and Mondays are actually better with less or no wait times,” she said. “We are asking for people to have a lot of patience because we are new to this as is everyone right now.”

While they aren’t outside helping, Goodwill staff is still supervising the unloading.

“Goodwill employees will monitor this process from behind locked doors,” Steeves said. “And we are asking people to hold off donating large items like furniture for now as we will not be able to assist you due to social distancing measures.”

Nothing about reopening was particularly easy, according to Steeves, but she said her agency was committed to taking the time to make sure they got it right.

“It was a lot of work to set things up but it’s worth it if it keeps people safe,” Steeves said. “We delayed our opening until we had everything we needed because that is what you have to do to keep people safe.”

Note: Anyone donating to or shopping at a thrift store outlet in Maine should either call ahead or check their website for up-to-date procedures and other COVID-19 information.

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.