By Lizann Lightfoot

Cleaning out your garage? These military charities need your donations
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps, Kristen Wong)

Every January, I have to find a place for the children’s new gifts. That’s a great opportunity to get rid of unused toys and outgrown clothes, too.

There are plenty of reasons for a military spouse to clean out the closets. Maybe the tiny rooms in your base housing are starting to feel cramped. Did you make a resolution to be more organized or minimalist this year? Are you preparing for a deployment? Maybe it is time to start cleaning out for the next PCS. Let’s split the work: You go through the closets and pull out the things you don’t need anymore and I’ll tell you some great military charities that will take your donations.

Base thrift store

Tokyo Thrift Store from Flickr via Wylio
© 2001 Jeff Kramer, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Most bases have a thrift store or Airman’s Attic run by volunteers from an officer’s club or by the Navy/Marine Corps Relief Society. They will collect used clothing, household goods, toys, baby items, uniforms, outdoor items, and small appliances. Then items are sold cheaply, often between $1 and $5. Your unwanted items can help your military community in two ways. First, your items will benefit the military families who shop at the thrift store. Second, since the store’s profits are reinvested directly into the base, your donations will help fund base activities or family programs.

Ball gowns

Red ball gown from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 Paula Satijn, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

How many dresses are you holding onto from military balls? Donate them to someone who needs them! The USO hosts a program called Operation That’s My Dress, which focuses primarily on teenage girls attending military balls. The program has expanded to include female service members and military wives. Donations are accepted at USO locations around the country. In Southern California, the ASYMCA Bells of Freedom host an annual dress giveaway called “Help a Princess to the Ball.” They collect formal gowns, cocktail dresses, and business attire to give to military spouses in the San Diego area.


Toys from Flickr via Wylio
© 2012 oatsy40, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

After Christmas, our house usually seems to be overflowing with toys. Every January, we make room for new things by choosing which toys to give away. Your gently used books and toys can be donated to Military Children’s Charity, Inc. This organization serves military families, not just during the holidays, but also when a military child loses a parent. If you received duplicate toys and have something new or unopened, donate it to Toys for Tots. This Marine Corps charity primarily accepts donations in the Fall to prepare for Christmas, but local Reserve offices may accept donations of new toys year-round.

Pantry items

pantry from Flickr via Wylio
© 2015 Joanna Alderson, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Your New Years’ resolution was to eat healthier and cut out snacks? That’s great! What about all those snacks and treats that are still in your cupboards? If they are unopened, don’t throw them away! Donate them to soldiers deployed overseas! Forgotten Soldiers sends care packages to troops who may not receive packages from anyone else. They can accept any unopened snack items or toiletries.

Outdoor items

Basecamp (600 metres) from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 John Keane, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Cleaning out the garage or backyard can be a rewarding family project. Moving some of that dusty sports equipment aside could make room for a home gym! Want some extra motivation to get rid of unused camping gear, fishing gear, BBQ supplies, or tools? Try this—if you donate them to Hope for Heroes, they will help disabled veterans rehabilitate through outdoor adventures. The charity arranges camping and fishing expeditions for permanently disabled veterans. They can even accept canoes and kayaks. Think of all the free space in your garage!

Need free pick-up? There are some military charities that will arrange a pick-up from your home! The Military Order of the Purple Heart has a program called GreenDrop. They can accept clothes, toys, baby gear, small appliances, electronics, or sporting goods—anything under 50 pounds. The items are sold at their thrift shops nationwide, and the profits are used for veterans programs. Vietnam Veterans of America has a similar service. They will pick up clothing, shoes, household items, toys, books, and even furniture. The items are sold at their thrift stores around the country, and the profits are used to support Vietnam Veterans.