Consider charitable giving

Legend had it in my hometown that a boy named Joel wrote the band The Dead Milkmen a fan letter in the late 1980s, and a few weeks later the band sent him a package in return. His fan letter allegedly requested that the band send him some mementos from their homes that he could have and value as keepsakes. Not wanting to let down their “biggest fan,” as Joel’s letter had proclaimed, they put together a box full of goodies for him to treasure.

The box was filled up with some of The Dead Milkmen’s clutter — a random dirty sock, the plastic wrap off of a pack of cigarettes, some bottle caps, a magnet, etc.

I don’t know if the story is true (20 years does weird things with history), but I like to think that it is. I like the idea of being able to box up things that I no longer need (quality goods, that is, not cigarette wrappers) and give them to someone who can appreciate them. Although I don’t have a fan club to happily receive my clutter, I can have a similar experience by donating my lightly used goods to charity.

Throughout the United States there are thousands of charities that accept goods for distribution or to sell. About a year ago, the Real Simple television show did a roundup of many of these national organizations. If you missed the episode, view the exhaustive five-page list here. It is a nice collection of groups that are always looking for donations.

For our neighbors to the north, Charity Village has a list of Canadian organizations that also accept used items.

11 Comments for “Consider charitable giving”

  1. posted by elsie on

    And don’t forget Freecycle ( It’s so nice to give things you don’t need to someone in your community who needs them.

  2. posted by Daryl on

    For those items that charities won’t accept but are still useful – check out

    There are chapters all over the US.

  3. posted by Matt on

    Freecycle was featured in a post here:

  4. posted by Andamom on

    First, that is a great article. People constantly ask me what organizations are open to donations of goods. The most frequent question I get is what battered women or immigrant shelters are looking for baby-related donations. People tell me that they are afraid that the money or goods will not be used for its intended purpose –As such, I did a post on donating to charities a few weeks ago (

  5. posted by Ryan on

    I don’t know about you, but if I were Joel and I liked the Dead Milkmen enough to send them that letter, and they sent me an old, smelly sock; I don’t think I would like the Dead Milkmen anymore.

    And I would also change my name. Joel? Really now.

  6. posted by betsey Biggs on

    I just dropped off several boxes and a floor lamp to Housing Works, a great NYC charity that sells items in its stores and in ebay auctions, and uses the money for charitable programs helping people with AIDS. It’s a great alternative to the SA for NYC folks. They’re very smart and designery. Plus, their stores have great stuff! Here’s a link:


  7. posted by Chris on

    Hey! *I* used to be the Dead Milkmen’s biggest fan! My “brush with greatness” with the band was when I saw them at a concert in the late 80’s. After the show I had a couple members of the band sign my organ donor card on the back of my driver’s license. They got a kick out of it too. Plain autographs are just too pedestrian… 🙂

    Love your blog, by the way. (My first time posting).

  8. posted by Andamom on

    Bestey — Housing Works is a wonderful organization as well as having great stores. Charles King, their leader, is quite an amazing guy — and Keith Cylar was a force to be reckoned with. They are quite involved in ensuring that all New Yorkers have access to housing. So, donations to the stores are a great way to personally assist their mission.

  9. posted by grindstyle on

    you had me at dead milkmen. +1

  10. posted by bill on

    I donate my used items to for sale listings on craiglist.

  11. posted by Dean on

    Hi there…Joe, Rodney and I (Dean) – the surviving members of the band are asking ourselves if this is a true story or not. While we personally answered a lot of fan mail (we had 8000 names on our mailing list at one point), I don’t remember sending anyone a sock! Our bass player though…he was quite a funny fellow…

    As for charitable giving – I collect old clothes (cleaned and washed!) and my son’s old toys and we give to the local hospital thrift store.

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