Unusable donated items cause
huge financial burden
By Marie L. Monyak
March 11, 2006
Ketchikan, Alaska - The Salvation
Army is an international non-profit social service organization
that has been in existence for over a century. Just some of the
services offered in Ketchikan by our local chapter are disaster
relief, holiday assistance, worship services, emergency assistance,
services for the aging, the Christmas Kettle campaign, food and
nutrition services and the soup kitchen.
According to the Salvation Army web site, over 30 million people
have been aided in some form by the services they provide. Also,
important to know is that 83 cents of every dollar donated goes
directly toward client services which is among the highest percentage
of any non-profit in the world.
Ketchikan's local Community Center is headed by Corps Officer
(Senior Pastor) Major James Halverson and his wife, also a Corps
Officer (Senior Pastor), Major Eileen Halverson.
Army Thrift Store
Photograph by Marie L. Monyak
Every Salvation Army Corps chapter has an Advisory Board comprised
of local community and civic leaders who provide advice and act
as a liaison between the Salvation Army and the community.
In Ketchikan, the Advisory Board is made up of nine community
members and it is one of those board members that has brought
a long standing problem to the attention of the Mayor and the
Most residents of Ketchikan are familiar with the Salvation Army
Thrift Store located on Stedman Street. It is not uncommon for
one to drive past the Thrift Store and see donated items left
after hours at the doorstep by well intentioned citizens.
It is these unusable donated items that are causing a huge financial
burden on our local chapter in the form of exorbitant landfill
fees. Although they are a non-profit organization, the Salvation
Army is charged by the City of Ketchikan, the same landfill rates
as any business.
According to Laura Huffine, Scale Operator at the Ketchikan Landfill,
"The business rate is $12.50 for non-hazardous loads of
up to 500 pounds and 6 cents a pound after that."
Based on receipts and bills from the City Landfill provided by
Major James Halverson, the Thrift Store has incurred over $1,000
in fees since the beginning of 2006 alone. It should be noted
that this is only landfill fees, not the regularly scheduled
refuse collection of day- to-day trash generated by the Community
Center and Thrift Shop.
Based on a telephone interview with Advisory Board member Steve
Corporon, "We have discussed this issue at Advisory Board
meetings for over two years now. Last year the Major sent a letter
to the City Manager and to their knowledge [the letter] was never
Corporon continued, "We are not looking to get a freebee
for regular trash they generate but for the "pass through"
trash that's not acceptable to begin with."
So what is "pass through" garbage? Any item that is
broken, doesn't work or worn beyond usage, thus cannot be sold
at the Thrift Store and must be discarded, in essence making
the Salvation Army the middle man in hauling the items to the
City Landfill on behalf of the donator.
Any resident of the City and Borough of Ketchikan that receives
a monthly KPU bill need only look at the itemized list of charges
and see code 54: Solid Waste Disposal: $15.00. This fee allows
residents to dispose of non-hazardous household refuse at the
City Landfill for no additional charge.
Army Thrift Store
Photograph by Marie L. Monyak
Like any child that knows how to play connect-the-dots, one only
needs to follow the trail of donated items from beginning to
end. Joe Citizen takes the old torn couch that Fluffy slept on
for five years, the broken refrigerator, the toaster with a frayed
electric cord and torn clothing to the Salvation Army Thrift
Store after hours.
All of these items are unusable and Joe Citizen would have been
advised of this had the Thrift Shop been open. The next business
day, the Thrift Shop employees arrive to find they are now responsible
to haul the items to the City Landfill at the expense of the
Are citizens leaving their rubbish at the Salvation Army because
the Landfill is closed at 4:00 P.M. Monday through Saturday,
before most people get off work, and closed on Sundays? Possibly.
Is it due to the proximity of the Thrift Store to the Landfill?
It could be that for some people who have come to Ketchikan from
larger cities in the Lower 48, may be familiar with a branch
of the Salvation Army known as ARC, the Adult Rehabilitation
Center where donated items in need of repair are refurbished
and readied for sale in the Thrift Stores.
Our local Salvation Army does not have this branch to assist
with repairing donated items and it's important for the well-intentioned
residents of Ketchikan to know this. Just as important, citizens
need to know they will not be charged at the landfill when discarding
their non-hazardous household trash.
Ketchikan City Mayor Bob Weinstein, at the March 1st City Council
meeting, asked that this problem be placed on the agenda for
the next City Council meeting in response to what he said, "calls
from several people the last few months that has to do with items
being dropped off, that the Salvation Army doesn't want, yet
the dropper could have taken it to the landfill at no cost."
Mayor Weinstein, addressing City Manager Karl Amylon, said, "The
Salvation Army is incurring larger than appropriate costs. Can
you have your staff look at the accounts for that kind of business
and see what recommendations, if any, you would have to lessen
The Mayor continued, "I'm not trying to get this to the
point where they have no landfill cost but if they're incurring
exorbitant costs because citizens dropped their stuff off instead
of going to the landfill and then it [fees] goes up, they [Salvation
Army] have the pleasure of paying."
City Manager Amylon answered with, "We can try to do it,
it's going to be hard in the context of identifying a class of
business." To which the Mayor responded, "I'm talking
about non-profit thrift store, there's only a few in town."
There are in fact, four thrift stores in Ketchikan. In addition
to the Salvation Army Thrift Store, there are the Easter Seals
Thrift Store, Wee Blessings and Rendezvous Senior Services Thrift
Wee Blessings is operated out of the basement of the Seventh
Day Adventist Church on Fist Avenue and in speaking with Pastor
Geary he stated, "If we have unusable items that have to
go to the landfill, our church members haul the items so there
is no charge." It should be noted that Wee Blessings does
not charge for anything in their thrift store, items are freely
given to those in need.
Pat Odell, manager of the Rendezvous Thrift Store and Jan Andrews,
program coordinator for their Senior Day Center both acknowledged
that they also have to haul unusable items to the City Landfill
but not on the scale of the Salvation Army.
Rendezvous Thrift Store does have signs posted outside that ask
residents not to leave donations outside and another that states
they do not accept toys, furniture or large appliances. Unfortunately,
the signs are not always heeded.
Pam Thornlow, owner of the Easter Seals Thrift Store was unavailable
for comment. It's unknown what the extent of the problem is for
The City Council represents the people of Ketchikan. Do the people
of Ketchikan believe that it's really necessary for the City
of Ketchikan to charge for unusable donations hauled by these
non-profits to the landfill?
Monies spent by the Salvation Army on these landfill fees ultimately
deprive those in need in the community of worthwhile services
that could otherwise be provided to them.
While donations are welcomed
blessings, if the item is unusable it can then become a huge
Marie L. Monyak is
a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
A freelance writer is an uncommitted independent writer
who produces and sells articles to a publisher such as SitNews.
Contact Marie at mlmx1[at]hotmail.com
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