The Comox Valley branch of the Salvation Army continues to struggle with mess and pilfering of items that are dropped after-hours at its thrift stores.
“We have large amounts of stuff being dropped off in the evening,” community ministries director Brent Hobden said, noting clothes and furniture damaged by rain end up in the landfill. “It can’t even go into recycling because it’s wet and it contaminates the rest of the load.
“The people with great intentions, they’d be heart-broken, I’m sure, to find out what’s really happening with their donations after hours,” Hobden added.
A security camera has caught people unloading items at the thrift store on Kilpatrick Avenue in Courtenay.
The Salvation Army has also installed high-definition cameras, and increased lighting on the premises at its Ryan Road store.
“We have a bird’s eye view, giving us the ability to make identification much easier and obtain licence plate numbers,” said operations manager Dawn Borgen, who is on a frequent call-in with the RCMP.
Cameras are helping to identify people who steal from metal bins, dump drywall and other renovation materials in wood bins, and break locks on dumpsters at the stores.
Each year, the Salvation Army spends more than $60,000 in waste management fees.
“The really sad part is the reason we get donations is so we can help people who are in need,” Hobden said. “All they have to do is come into Family Services, and we will help them with whatever it is that they’re taking from the stores. But there’s a channel and there’s ways we do this. There’s different programs that we can connect people to. Our passion is to help the people out, and to do it in a way that we’re addressing — not just because they need food or clothing, but to address some of the circumstances around why they need food or why they need clothing.”
The Salvation Army implores the public to donate items during business hours at two receiving centres: 1671 Ryan Rd. and 2966 Kilpatrick Ave. Hours are 8:30 a.m – 4:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday.
“It would save a whole lot of heartache,” Hobden said.