The Salvation Army wants people to stop leaving items outside closed stores and donation centers during the coronavirus pandemic, calling it "illegal dumping" and saying the donations are instead going to the trash.
"I understand you want to get rid of what you have in the house, but the intention is to divert things being thrown out into the landfill," said Salvation Army Director of Business Leora Conway-Moreno.
Conway-Moreno said items have been piling up outside thrift stores and donation centers across the Chicago area during the pandemic, forcing the group's skeleton staff to work overtime to clean up.
"We have to send out drivers to do pickups at least twice a day because the dumping is continuing," she said. "So we are then putting staff out in a place where there may be COVID."
Signs have been placed outside of shut down storefronts and gates surround many donation sites, but Conway-Moreno said many have been removed or damaged.
"The bolts are missing, the fence is completely bent in," she said.
Fixing the damage results in out-of-pocket costs for Salvation Army at a time when their adult rehabilitation centers are financially strapped with stores that fully fund the rehabilitation program shuttered, she added.
"While stores are not essential at this time, the program is essential," Conway-Moreno said.
Anyone who sees illegal dumping can call the Salvation Army to report it. Conway-Moreno said donations are still needed, but will have to wait until stores reopen.
"When we open there are going to be other ways we can work with you in order to make a safe donation," she said.