No good tidings, just tidying up
Each day people bring toys and clothing for needy families to Christmas Cheer, a nonprofit organization which feeds the hungry throughout the year and gives away thousands of toys during the holidays.
On Sunday, however, someone brought them boxes of dirty clothes, old shoes, ancient skis and a broken chair. They left a tattered mattress set, broken exercise equipment, a bookshelf and torn baby clothes in front of the building when no one was there – and drove away.
“Just trash, in other words. Just total, total trash,” said Joanne Shope, a volunteer for Christmas Cheer. “I don’t know what to do. This is just a few people who dumped their trash, pretending like they are donating.
“All this does is cost us money to dump it and that comes from our food money, so it is really frustrating.”
The “donations” spilled across the front of the Christmas Cheer office onto Eloise Avenue and took volunteers most of the day to clean.
“There is very little that is usable and we don’t have the time to go through it,” said Joni Boughton, who has volunteered at Christmas Cheer for five years.
“We will slowly get it done,” Shope said. “This is not the first time it has happened but this is the worst day we have had – I kid you not – it has never been this bad.”
Shope estimated that the cleanup could cost as much as $100, which is a large portion of their monthly food budget.
“One day we had a lot of garbage and it cost us $85 (to dump),” Shope said. “Usually it is not quite that much.”
It is illegal to dump items at thrift stores or organizations such as Christmas Cheer, according to South Lake Tahoe police, but the business must post no-dumping signs outside. Christmas Cheer does not have any signs but is considering how to improve security.
“Some people really do care, but the people who do this stuff don’t,” Shope said. “We learned at Christmas how much the community cares about us.”
Three days before Christmas last year thieves broke into the trailer where Christmas Cheer had stored thousands of toys and took most of the items. They were replaced the following day by hundreds of South Shore residents who donated more toys than were stolen.
Police never learned who was responsible for the theft and no arrests were made.
“What upsets me personally is that when people donate money they expect it to go to food, not garbage,” Shope said. “What we would really like is for people to bring things down and let us take a look at them so we can say ‘Yes, we can use this.’ Don’t just dump it on us at night or over the weekend.”
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