Thursday, April 17, 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Northern Westchester Bureau Chief
Catherine Wilson

Spring Cleaning And Charitable Contributions

April is “Earth Month” in Westchester County, a time to focus on what the government, organizations, and individuals can do to preserve our planet. Nature Centers, such as the one in Rye, are hosting hikes and presentations to showcase the beauty of our environment. Our County and many local towns and organizations are hosting a variety of events from how to “green” your home, to compost-making, to alternate fuel sources and uses, to inspire local residents to do their part to preserve the environment around us.

The idea behind the original Earth Day was to take a day to clean up our surround-ings. Volunteers would use this day as their annual clean
up of local hiking trails, and to clean out trash and debris from parks and roadways. That idea has expanded to year-round efforts of community groups and organizations “adopting” parks, roads, and trails to maintain them.

Every Spring, local homeowners also do annual cleanups of their own, taking a day or more, to clear out accumulated items that are cluttering
the trails in their daily lives. But with the growing concerns of global warming, homeowners are now reluctant to toss their unwanted items in
the trash. Fortunately, there are a variety of organizations in Westchester where unwanted items can be recycled and put to good use elsewhere.

Churches throughout Westchester host annual “rummage sales” in April and May. Volunteers from these churches take in contributions from local residents, sort the items by type and value (distinguishing designer and “boutique” items), and price them for the sale. Usually, the day of the sale has a festive atmosphere. Seasoned rummage sale shoppers arrive well before opening time (usually 9am) to get “first dibs” on the best items. Experienced parents know they can find children’s clothing for less than $1 an item; homeowners can find furniture and tools for a fraction of their original cost. Shoppers help each other rummage through the items while volunteers serve up coffee and home-baked goods to keep them going. Afterwards, any unsold items are distributed by the churches to local charitable groups while the money raised is used to fund a variety of services in our communities and elsewhere.

One of the largest church rummage sales in Westchester is held at the First Presbyterian Church in Katonah every April/May (this year’s event is held from Monday, April 28, through Thursday, May 3). Deborah-Anne Ferguson, the office manager of the First Presbyterian
Church, spoke to The Guardian about their annual sale. “We start with literally mountains of stuff and volunteers sort for days,” Ferguson said. She remarked that contributions from the community are growing every year. The Katonah sale is so large, they have to split it into two types – an outdoor sale for large items and furniture, and an indoor sale for clothing, books, toys, and household items.

“The outside sale always begins on Monday morning and goes rain or shine,” Ferguson noted. “The whole church gets involved in this event. We have over 100 church members and friends helping us. We provide our workers with food and childcare during the week. I have been receiving calls for this year’s sale for a couple of weeks now. The community knows about our sale and they save their goods to donate to us.” According to Ferguson, their biggest issue for the past couple of years is that they have been getting too many donations and don’t have enough workers to deal with all the stuff. Over the last few years, they have shortened the donation period and still seem to have too much stuff.

Of course, the rummage sales do not end with the sale themselves. The moneys raised are just the beginning. Katonah’s sale last year raised over $29,000. And, according to Ferguson, the church distributed those funds to a host of organizations, among them:

Americares Homefront, a community based, volunteer-driven home repair program that provides home repairs to low-income homeowners;
Bridges to Community, a non-profit cultural exchange organization;

Brotherhood-Sister Sol, a mentoring and leadership group for Latino and African-American youth;

Katrina relief;

Midnight Run, a Dobbs-Ferry organization that provides essentials to local homeless poor;

Neighbors Link, a Mt. Kisco group that educates, empowers, and employs non-English speaking residents;

Westchester Habitat for Humanity, constructs homes for local poor residents.

Last year’s sale also provided funds for the church itself, local animal care groups, and battered women’s shelters, medical and rehabilitation organizations, and relief and humanitarian efforts in China, the Congo, and Zimbabwe. As was pointed out, their prices are very, very
reasonable which contributes to the success of their sale. There obviously is a great need if they can manage to sell things at 50 cents and $1 and still raise about $30,000 annually.

The need for contributions is growing in our local communities. In addition to local churches, other organizations, such as Goodwill, and the Salvation Army, are reaching out to local residents to contribute their unwanted items. The Salvation Army thrift stores are the mainstay for their Adult Rehabilitation centers and programs. According to the Salvation Army’s annual statement, the thrift stores provide quality clothing, furniture and other goods to the community at bargain prices 100% of the proceeds going directly to the operation of the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Centers, allowing them to be self-sustaining. The men and women involved in rehabilitation work at the stores, allowing them to regain their self-esteem and learn vocational skills The donations offered, and the bargains found at the stores, help others
to reclaim their lives and heal families.

To address the growing needs of those families dependant upon them, Goodwill recently opened an additional store in Elmsford. Goodwill will accept unused or gently-used items such as clothing, appliances, and furniture for resale. According to their annual statement, “Every 56 seconds of every business day someone gets a job, and comes closer to achieving personal and financial independence, thanks to Goodwill Industries and you”.While the need for donated items continues to grow, not all items are eligible for recycling in this manner. Goodwill posts some “do’s and don’ts” for donations on its website. The organization recommends washing or dry-cleaning all clothing to be donated, and the testing of all electrical and battery-operated items to assure they are still functioning properly, as well as verifying that all pieces and parts to children’s games and toys are included. Only items that are reusable should be donated – no torn or ripped clothing. Goodwill also recommends against leaving items unattended outside collection centers and against donating broken, soiled or recalled items.

Before donating any items, one of the questions many local residents ask involves how much of the proceeds of their donations will actually go towards supporting the needy. Some thrift stores are for-profit organizations that may solicit donations in the name of a charity but only forward a small percentage of their actual profits to the charitable organization. In addition to local charitable thrift stores and churches, there are other ways for local residents to clear out their unused items without tossing them in the trash. Craig’s List, a website bulletin board, will post “curb alert” listings for items that residents have left on the street for their trash pickups. A local listing from a Yonkers resident clearly announced: “Attention - sectional couch outside at curb now!!! Home made slip covers, decent condition. Good for basement/game room ....especially if you have kids! Couch at curb now for the taking!!! Will be picked up tomorrow by city......”

The intention of the Craig’s List “curb alert” postings is to cut down on trash. Why have the town/city pick it up as trash if someone else can use it? Many of the Craig’s List posters are so eager to recycle their items they provide photographs and full details, like this current one from White Plains (which had two photos attached): “I’ve got a very nice 3-seat sofa to give away. I’m moving and won’t be
taking it with me. It measures roughly 33 inches wide by 89 inches long. It’s incredibly comfortable. There is a little bit of scuffing around some corners/ edges.

THE CATCH: The one catch is that you’ll need to move it yourself. I’m on the 3rd floor of an apartment building and when I moved it in, I
couldn’t quite get it to fit in the elevator (maybe you’ll have better luck than I.) It took a friend and me about 15 minutes to carry it up the two flights of stairs; not really that big of a deal. You will need a truck and two relatively strong guys.”

Not to be left out in the “trash to treasures” arena, Westchester County posts its own version of Craig’s List on its website under “treasure hunt”. This week’s postings offered a variety of items from a desk to a baby stroller to a free hot tub! The point of Earth Day is to remind local residents of how we affect our environment and what changes we can make in our personal lives, like reducing trash. The County Government just passed a bill setting up bins at local supermarkets for shoppers to recycle their plastic bags, and has expanded the number of recycling days it offers for residents to turn in their hazardous materials.

Local dry cleaners will accept wire hangars, and garages will take our old engine oil and tires. But recycling our clothing and household items
not only reduces our local trash thereby helping our environment, but also has an economic multiplier effect upon our communities. The proceeds from the sale of that unused ice-cream maker or unmatched blouse can go towards funding a variety of charitable needs in our midst. Simply throwing that ugly purse and those ill-fitting clothes in the trash adds to our landfills, increases our town taxes, and wastes gasoline
adding to our individual carbon footprints. Donating them to our local organizations means those same unwanted items could help fund a rehab center, build affordable housing, or provide a home-repair for a senior citizen, a “win-win” for all involved. The homeowner gets a clean closet, the town gets fewer trash pickups, the local charities get funding, and those in need get the help they require. And, in case you were wondering, as for the hot tub on – I think it may have already found a new home!

Northern Westchester Round-Up

Elmsford: Assault charges against a local resident, Sandra Calvi Muscente, an Elmsford High School principal, could potentially be dropped pending an agreement before Carmel Town Court. The charges stem from an altercation between Muscente and her husband and mother-in-law. Muscente has been on leave from the Elmsford school since February.

Greenburgh: The two-year-old son of local residents, Rohit and Roshni Karnani, suffered a brain hemorrhage after being shaken by his nanny, Bibi Zaman. Zaman was arraigned on a charge of reckless assault of a child and is being held without bail at the Westchester County jail.

Somers: Local residents voted against an expansion of the Town Library. The local referendum proposed a $9.5 million project to double
the size of the library and provide additional services, computers, and handicapped access.

Yorktown: Local resident, Deborah Lividini, faces charges of serving alcohol to underaged minors in her home. Lividini has been charged with a misdemeanor and will return to court in Yorktown on May 6.

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