Rowe and Frances King, manager of the army's Thrift Store, where the donated furniture, appliances and clothing are sold, say some takers might mistake the boxes for solid waste Dumpsters. They believe most realize the boxes are for donated goods but rationalize that the stuff was probably going to be tossed in a Dumpster anyway, and thus are free for the taking.
And then there is a third group of takers - the ones who want to make money from things for which they didn't pay a penny.
King says she has been told that several people have basements filled with items taken from army drop boxes that eventually will be sold at yard sales and flea markets. In essence, these basements serve as warehouses for stolen goods that will be peddled in a sort of laundering scheme.
Lame excuses given for thefts
There is no excuse for this activity, except if someone cannot read or doesn't recognize the Salvation Army logo. Signs saying what the boxes are for and the army logo are plastered on each box. So, unless someone is illiterate or has never before seen a logo as familiar as the Christmas kettles and bells, any other excuse for stealing goods from the boxes is as lame as the Grinch saying he was removing clutter from the houses of those little people and just happened to take some gifts from around their Christmas trees, along with more than a few of the trees.
This Grinch-like activity has contributed to the fact that the inventories of furniture, appliances and clothes at the Thrift Store are way down. That means low-income people who depend on the army for sofas and hutches, tables and chairs, stoves and refrigerators, and pants and dresses they can afford have a lot less to choose from.
This behavior also means people who have given out of the goodness of their hearts and expect their donations to be available for needy people to purchase end up disappointed.
And if some of the takers are in need themselves, King says they are welcome to come by the army's office and get a voucher from a caseworker to obtain items at the store. The army has contacted Danville police, and Chief Jay Newell is aware of the problem and his officers are responding to every report and call. But unless the thieves are caught in the act and they can be identified, it's hard for the cops to press theft charges. In the meantime, Rowe and King are asking that donors bring large items to the Thrift Store during business hours, which are 9 a.m-5 p.m. weekdays, or call to have them picked up.
They also are giving serious consideration to eliminating the drop boxes, which were meant to be a convenience for donors but, as King says, have become more of a nuisance. It's a shame such a good program has been harmed by a few bad people.
It's like seeing Santa lying on the side of the road, his sleigh turned over and his bag empty.