Students' discards become thrift shop treasures
UCLA students took back home with them memories of the 2011-12 academic year when they departed from campus last week. But they left behind enough stuff on the Hill to furnish a good-sized apartment building: everything from working TV sets and desk lamps — complete with unopened boxes of bulbs — to mountains of clothing, rumpled mattress covers, a string of Halloween bat lights and piles of pillows.
A bin outside a Sunset Canyon residence hall overflows with donations bound for Goodwill.
Instead of tossing items into trash bins, students donated a whopping 33 filled-to-the-brim bins of discards to Goodwill, the resale-store nonprofit that has been the direct beneficiary of UCLA’s Clothes-Out program since 2009. During move-out week, donation bins were set up near residence halls on the Hill, as well as the Hilgard and Weyburn Terrace apartment complexes for graduate students and married-student housing off campus. When the bins were piled high, Goodwill sent trucks to pick up this treasure trove for their thrift stores.
"Anything you basically find in a student’s room, you’ll find here," said Earl Duque, assistant resident director for Residential Life, as he spotted a pair of men’s winter longjohns tossed into one bin at Sunset Canyon. "It’s amazing how many people donate their underwear," he said, confiding, "I usually wear gloves when I go through this stuff."
Working on the Clothes-Out program this year on the Hill were assistant resident director Rebekah Aladdin, this year’s sustainability coordinator, and the Green Team of student leaders who are responsible for sustainability programs in the residence halls. Students’ largesse was so great this time around that Goodwill sent up a truck earlier in the week to keep up with donations coming in fast and furiously.
Last year’s collection yielded nine TV seats, Duque said, as well as a few "illegal" appliances that students are warned each year not to use in their rooms. He eyed a coffeemaker that a student left behind in a bin.
Others that benefit from student discards are local schools. This year, the residence halls collected boxes of the 2011-12 Common Book, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot, and donated them to the schools. All 6,000-plus incoming UCLA first-year and transfer students were provided the book to read during the summer in preparation for book discussions held during True Bruin Welcome Week in September.
Kevin Bai of San Diego puts a pair of shoes into a donation bin on his way home for the summer.
Much of what’s given away is barely worn clothing or other gently used items, Duque said. "It’s not old stuff. It’s just stuff they don’t want to take home." Some items are even in their original boxes.
Freshman Kevin Bai of San Diego dropped off a stylish pair of black Converse shoes with lots of tread still on them. "I don’t really want them anymore," said Bai, stopping at the bins on his way home. "It’s better to donate them rather than just throw them away." With that, he added them to a growing pile of sweatpants, jackets, a Dance Marathon t-shirt and a pair of crutches.
"If [Goodwill] doubled the number of bins they could leave us, they would be filled up within a week," Dubuque said confidently. "In fact, I wish they would bring us more bins."