CHAMPAIGN — It's not quite spring yet, but some local charities would dearly love to see everybody go on an early spring-cleaning spree.
Local organizations are in desperate need of the unwanted clothing, furniture, toys and household items that would likely be brought their way.
Those donations tend to run a bit low this time of year anyway. But for Salvation Army of Champaign County and Salt and Light — they seem to be running lower than ever.
This past Friday, there were no carts of clothing to sort at the Salvation Army's Family Thrift Store at 109 W. John St., said assistant manager April McKibben.
"Normally we keep five of them, and they're all empty right now," she said.
The shortage in clothing donations means the staff had to start putting out things that were being saved for summer, McKibben said.
"We're afraid we're going to run out of those and have nothing left for summer," she added.
The decline in material donations started after Christmas and has gotten "worse and worse," McKibben says.
"Every winter, about this time, we have this problem," McKibben said. "But right now, it's even worse."
Salt and Light, a faith-based organization in Champaign that serves the poor, is also noticing a winter slowdown in donations that's much worse this year, says Josh Hoerman, director of operations.
Salt and Light also been forced to put out summer things for needy families — plus some low-quality things, "stuff we normally wouldn't put out," he said..
Hoerman said he thinks donations are probably down because people are hanging on to their clothes longer these days because of the recession. But he also thinks many of the bags of used clothing and household goods that used to go to charities are being placed in the drop boxes of for-profit entities.
"You can't hardly go four of five blocks in town and not come across those for-profit clothing boxes all over town," he said.
Empty Tomb, a Christian organization that takes in furniture and clothing donations and gets them to people in need, stored a surplus in December and has enough for what is typically a shortfall in February, founder Sylvia Ronsvalle said.
"February is the lowest donation month and has been," she said.
Land of Lincoln Goodwill Industries hasn't experienced a similar decline in donations for its store at 912 W. Anthony Drive, C, and there was a healthy supply of full boxes in its back storage room, assistant manager Melvin Bennett said.
"We're fine," he said.
Habitat for Humanity's ReStore in Champaign expects to be low on inventory this time of year, "and it's kind of matching our anticipations," store director Patti Darr said.
Proceeds from the store help offset operating costs, and the organization hopes to build a house with excess store revenue in 2013, Darr said.
For Salvation Army, a worse-than-usual donation dip for the two thrift stores follows a disappointing holiday fund drive in which the agency came up $46,000 short of its $430,000 goal.
Both Salvation Army thrift stores — on West John Street and the Red Shield Center store on North Market Street — help fund Salvation Army's services in the community. Envoy Michael Fuqua said he is hoping to make up some of the shortage in cash donations through extra store sales in the year ahead.
McKibben says the two stores need pretty much everything right now, but clothing is especially needed. Other items such as your unwanted kitchen supplies, books, purses and shoes, household items, furniture and knickknacks are also welcomed to fill the shelves at the two stores.
Donations are accepted at the back entrances of both Salvation Army stores at 109 W. John St., C, and 2212 N. Market St. C.
Just ring the bells. Someone will help you unload and give you a receipt for your taxes, McKibben said.
To donate furniture, call the North Market Street store at 373-7832 to arrange for a pickup, she said.
Salt and Light has three bins available to leave donated items on the west side of its building at 1512 W. Anthony Drive. C.
Those bins are accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Hoerman said.
Used furniture, electronics, appliances and household items are accepted at Habitat's ReStore, 119 E. University Ave., C, at the back of the store from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.