Trash or treasure

Donators asked to sift through items

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— Residents are being asked to recognize what is junk and what is a donation when considering items to bring to LIFT-UP of Routt County.

Life at LIFT-UP's donation center and thrift store is a little overwhelming this time of the year, which is spawning the request.

From people doing annual spring or summer cleaning to renters relocating to better locations, the nonprofit organization deals with a large amount of secondhand items during the warm months of the year.

In fact, during the three days a week it used to take donations, LIFT-UP Director David Freseman estimated three truckloads a day came into the donation center, at the old middle school on Seventh Street.

"I mean heaping truckloads," he said.

For the most part, the truckloads are a welcomed sight. About 75 percent of LIFT-UP's budget comes from sales at its thrift store on Oak Street, which depends on the donations. Much of the money made at the thrift store goes to support the organization's food banks in the county. The banks supply county residents who qualify with inexpensive or free food, as well as financial assistance.

But all those truckloads of donated items have created a backlog of items that need to be processed, which is forcing the donation center to close next week.

"It's all that we can use with the space that we have," Freseman said.

When it reopens, Freseman is requesting the public to be more selective on the items they choose to donate.

"We constantly get stuff that is unusable," he said. "Probably a third of everything we get in we end up having to put in Dumpsters."

In some cases, the public has viewed the donation center as the last stop before the dump. Freseman is hoping to break that stigma and wants the public to make the donation-or-dump decision for themselves. Basically, he said, if it looks like junk, it probably is junk.

For example, jeans with holes in them or stained dresses aren't worth much at the thrift store and can go to the dump. Cutting out those items will reduce the amount of work for the staff, which consists mostly of volunteers.

"It's a double-edged issue for us," Freseman said. "We have to have the donation to survive."

However, the more time spent sifting through junk for useable items means less items can be donated.

When the LIFT-UP donation center opens again from its week of processing, it will take donations only twice a week, from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The one less day of donation time will alleviate some of the problem of getting backed up. However, at least this summer, the problem want be completely solved until people making donations stop by the dump with their truckload before they stop by LIFT-UP.

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