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Spring cleaning, Tampa Bay? Here are some donation options with impact

From thrift stores to Facebook, your gently-used goods can help the homeless, kids, dogs, even your neighbors..
Hilda Trammer sorts through new donations at the CASA Community Thrift Store, 1011 1st Ave N, St. Petersburg.
Hilda Trammer sorts through new donations at the CASA Community Thrift Store, 1011 1st Ave N, St. Petersburg. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Apr. 9
Updated Apr. 9

When Mary Figg recently downsized from her house on an acre in Lutz to a townhome, she had a lot of donating to do.

The furniture that didn’t fit in her new digs was bound for Habitat for Humanity.

The nicer clothes she had only worn a few times went to the Spring of Tampa Bay domestic violence shelter, which has a thrift store and South Tampa boutique.

“Hopefully they made a little money,” said Figg, a former Florida legislator. “And that prospect makes me feel good.”

Across Tampa Bay, residents are busy spring cleaning and pandemic purging — and some, purposefully donating what they don’t need to causes they support.

“It makes me feel good about where my things are going,” said Leslie Farrell, a Tampa writer and publicist who favors OASIS Opportunities, which helps at-risk schoolchildren.

Here are a few ways to donate in Tampa Bay that impact specific causes.

Housing the homeless

When a homeless person makes it back into housing in Hillsborough — a county that counted at least 1,650 men, women and children on the streets in 2019 — that’s a victory.

A homeless person's camp in Hillsborough County.
A homeless person's camp in Hillsborough County. [ Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office ]

It’s also often a small, bare apartment in need of the basics: a compact microwave, toaster oven, vacuum cleaner, bistro table and chairs, kitchenware, linens, towels and pillows, said Dep. Stephanie Krager, who is part of a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office unit that works with the homeless.

Donated items should be in decent shape — “anything you would give to a family member that’s starting out,” Krager said. Not needed: mattresses, big furniture, wine glasses and beer mugs. For pick-ups or drop-off sites, call 813-242-5540 or message skrager@teamhcso.com.

“We couldn’t do this without the community,” Krager said.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies put together donated furniture for a new apartment for a formerly homeless man.
Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies put together donated furniture for a new apartment for a formerly homeless man. [ Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office ]

Metropolitan Ministries, which serves poor and homeless families in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk and Pasco, has a donation line to call to see what’s needed: 813-209-1034. Pinellas Hope can be reached at pinellashope.org or 727-556-6397.

Domestic violence

St. Petersburg’s CASA Community Thrift Shop brings in more than $300,000 a year to support CASA, Pinellas County’s 133-bed domestic violence shelter.

But donations to the store also directly impact people who turn to CASA for help. Shelter residents, some who have been controlled down to the clothes they wear, use vouchers to shop there.

The CASA Community Thrift Shop in St. Petersburg.
The CASA Community Thrift Shop in St. Petersburg. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

“We don’t just give a survivor clothes — it’s really about empowering them to make the choices for themselves,” said Taylor Withers, CASA senior director of advancement. Vouchers are also used for children’s clothes and household items for starting over.

CASA takes clothes, housewares, furniture and decor and could currently use more men’s and children’s clothing. Pick-ups can be arranged in St. Petersburg and donations made at the store at 1011 1st Ave N. For more information: 727-828-1233.

Retro retailing

St. Petersburg’s Metro Retro & Retail store supports Metro Inclusive Health, a health and wellness nonprofit that provides services for the LGBTQ community and anyone in need.

Metro Retro & Retail, at 2235 Central Ave., takes donations of “gently used” clothing, furniture, retro tchotchkes, designer labels, decorative items and “any collectibles that someone might be willing to part with,” said chief marketing officer Brian Bailey.

“If the item is great and we can turn it around, it does a lot of good for our community,” he said.

Some recent offerings at Metro Retro & Retail.
Some recent offerings at Metro Retro & Retail. [ Facebook ]

Donations can be dropped off during store hours. You can call 727-321-7212 beforehand to make sure they can use your items — a good idea wherever you donate.

Successful dressing

If you’re thinking of purging your closets of those office outfits, women looking for work could use them.

Dress for Success Tampa Bay helps about 2,000 women a year with work wardrobes as well as job training, retention and career skills. Women connect to the nonprofit through schools, shelters, immigration services and other agencies to get “suited.”

“Our mission is to help them get back into the workforce, reach their career goals and be self-sufficient,” said Diane Howard, president of the board of directors.

Donations of work-appropriate suits, blouses, skirts, dresses and pants are preferred dry-cleaned. Purses, jewelry and shoes are also welcome.

Dress for Success Tampa Bay also holds excess inventory sales as fundraisers, though last year's was cancelled because of the pandemic.
Dress for Success Tampa Bay also holds excess inventory sales as fundraisers, though last year's was cancelled because of the pandemic. [ Stephanie Hayes | Times (2015) ]

Donations are accepted Thursdays at 1705 N Howard Avenue in Tampa. For more information: 813-259-1876. Dress for Success opens soon in St. Petersburg.

Dogs and cats in need

Shelter pups and kitties could use towels, blankets and washcloths. Your newspapers, too.

The Humane Society of Tampa Bay also needs dog and cat food bowls and dog sweaters for wintertime.

Animal shelters like the Humane Society of Tampa Bay are often in need of donations.
Animal shelters like the Humane Society of Tampa Bay are often in need of donations. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]

Donated items are used for animals at the shelter, but if they have a surplus, certain items may also go to local pet owners in the pet food assistance program that helps them afford to keep their pets.

Donations can be left in the shelter’s bins under covered parking at 3607 N Armenia Ave. in Tampa. For more information, call 813-876-7138 or go to humanesocietytampa.org.

Local and free. Yes, free.

The Buy Nothing Project on Facebook is a popular way to donate and keep it local.

When someone has something to get rid of — plants, paint, furniture, firewood, a once-used pot for frying turkey, whatever — they post it on their local Buy Nothing Facebook group for a neighbor to claim.

No selling, no buying, no trading. The idea is to give where you live.

Colette Duke has put out everything from furniture to books to desks — particularly useful with kids schooling at home in the pandemic.

“It gives you a better sense of community,” she said.

Created by two friends in Washington state in 2013, Buy Nothing has gone worldwide. St. Petersburg has at least five neighborhood chapters and Tampa at least nine.

“You’re not just throwing it out into the abyss of who knows where it’s going to land,” said member Kristen Hansen. “I really like it.”

To join, find your community’s Buy Nothing page on Facebook or go to buynothingproject.org.

Other purposeful donation options:

Beth-El Farmworker Ministry, 18240 U.S. Hwy. 301 S in Wimauma, serves farm workers and rural communities in Hillsborough County. 813-633-1548.

Thrift shops across Tampa Bay support hospice care, autism awareness and people with mental disabilities, among other causes. You can search online to donate to a thrift store with a specific mission.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a Catholic-based charity that helps the needy and has locations in Pasco, Hernando, Hillsborough and Pinellas.

Goodwill and the Salvation Army also have have locations across the region.