Early spring cleaning? Where you can bring unwanted items

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Overflowing bags of donations pile up outside of the Disabled American Veterans bins in the parking lot of Lueken's Village Foods North on April 19. (Hannah Olson/Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- Many people seem to have been using their newfound downtime during the pandemic as an excuse to clean out their homes, basements and garages -- judging by the ever-growing piles outside of the many local Disabled American Veterans donation bins.

What are the options for local residents looking to part with their gently used goods? Some local thrift stores are still accepting donations or consignments, while others are asking the public to please stop dropping off their items.

Disabled American Veterans bins

When the stay-at-home order was issued, Senior Vice Commander Mike Zimmerman of the DAV North Central Chapter duct-taped the local green bins closed and posted notices asking the public not to donate their items.

People did not listen.

“The public just decided to dump stuff in there and ripped our signs off,” he said. “But, we just had to keep going.”


“We weren’t supposed to (collect donations), but if I didn’t then the businesses would call-- at one point we were almost told to pick up our bins at one business,” he added.

Zimmerman said the organization has been getting more donations than ever before, which is good, but they are running into storage problems.

“We’ve been getting a whole lot more than normal, and what we’re figuring is, people are home, so they’re doing their early spring cleaning,” he said. “Which is good, but it’s bad because right now we can’t get rid of any of the product, so we’re basically stockpiling until we are able to disperse it again. It’s good, but it’s bad. Our warehouse is going to be full soon.”

The donations are collected and stored before being loaded into semi-trucks and driven to the metro area to be sold at Savers thrift stores, which are currently closed due to COVID-19 and not accepting donations, according to the Savers website.

Those collecting the donations flooding into the bins have to take extra precautions to keep themselves safe.

“We wear masks, gloves, and a lot of times, the clothes we have on we have just thrown them away,” he explained. “Because we just don’t know what’s in the stuff.”

The DAV bins in Bemidji are now being checked for donations on a weekly basis. Zimmerman also said that the DAV is no longer able to pick up items.

Up Thrift

Julie Canty, owner of Up Thrift, felt she had to take action to save goods from the landfill during a time where people might think they don’t have other options.


“When I moved here,” she said, “I was shocked to hear people say things like ‘oh, you’d take our old stuff? Because we usually just throw it away or burn it.”

Her mission was to change people’s thought process, and encourage them to reuse and repurpose their items.

She is currently preparing for the unknown -- and bracing to potentially not have her shop receive foot traffic until winter. Canty is beginning to list items online for sale, but said it is not an easy transition for thrift stores.

“With the thrift store, it’s 70,000 items that are everything from a spatula to a Lululemon bra,” she explained. “The spectrum is huge, so we’ve been taking it category by category. I don’t want the product to just sit on my hangers, that’s not helping anybody.”

The donations come not only from people causally cleaning out things, people are moving during this crisis, loved ones are going through the estates of people who have died, she said.

Canty said if you bring things to her, she will find a place for them -- even if it’s something she can’t sell, she partners with other local organizations to get rid of those items sustainably.

To ensure items are sanitary, donations are disinfected with Lysol and quarantined in bags for five days before being sorted. Canty also wears gloves and masks to collect donations.

“We want to help you declutter, and we want to keep our small business alive,” Canty said. “I don’t have anything else, I’ve been building this.”


Local thrift stores and consignment shops:

The Hanger: The Hanger is accepting consignments and donations by appointment only drop-offs on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 4 p.m. They ask that clothing is washed and clean and placed in white garbage bags. Call (218) 444-8406 or send The Hanger a Facebook message for details. The Hanger is also selling clothing grab bags and offering personal shopping during this time.

Up Thrift: Up Thrift is accepting donations via pick up, drop off, or curbside, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call when you are outside, (218) 444-9275, stay in your car, pop your trunk and they will remove all of your items, or call to arrange curbside pickup. Items are available for purchase on their website.

Goodwill: Goodwill stores throughout the region have been closed since March 19. Goodwill Communications Manager Scott Vezina asked those wishing to donate items to please hold onto them, as they have had issues with illegal dumping recently. Items dumped during this time will ultimately be thrown away due to being left outside in the weather and Goodwill must incur the cost.

DAV: DAV bins around the Bemidji Area are now being emptied around once a week. The organization can no longer pick up items from homes.

Value Smart Retail Consignment: According to their Facebook page, Value Smart is not currently open or accepting consignments.

Thrifty Kids: According to their Facebook page, Thrifty Kids is selling some items via Facebook, and accepting consignment drop-offs by appointment.

Twice But Nice: Twice But Nice is accepting consignment drop-offs according to their Facebook page. Have “spring and summer” items in a bag or box and labeled with name and number. They will take 25 items per week per consignor. For questions call or text (218) 766-5274. Please drop off at the back door.

Hannah Olson is a multimedia reporter for the Pioneer covering education, Indigenous-centric stories and features.
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