Volunteers Of America Seeks Public’s Help To Combat Illegal Dumping
WILKES-BARRE — Volunteers of America is asking the public to be vigilant for illegal dumping when passing by the rear parking lot of the thrift store on South Main Street.
Employees at the store spent several hours Monday morning and afternoon loading water-logged couches, old mattresses, box springs, urine-stained clothing and other garbage into a truck for delivery to a local landfill.
“The dump charges us $20 per mattress and box spring” in addition to the $81-per-half-ton charge for truckloads of trash, said thrift store manager Cynthia Mateo.
And if a truckload weighs less than a half ton, the nonprofit still has to pay the minimum $81, Mateo said.
People unload their junk in an area near the store’s loading dock despite posted signs listing drop-off hours, instructing donors should speak to the store manager or call the store, and warning that violators will be prosecuted and fined.
Mateo said the scofflaws have become adept at avoiding surveillance cameras and “parking strategically” so their license plates can’t be seen.
“Some of them wear hoodies even when it’s hot out” to hide their faces, said warehouse manager Ed Kyle.
Kyle, who has worked at the store since January, said the problem has been ongoing, but it’s worsened over the last few months.
“We get garbage, we get clothes. We’ve had concrete and drywall left back here. It’s very disrespectful. We’re trying to do good for our neighbors in our community and this is how we’re treated,” Kyle said.
Kyle and Mateo asked police officers, ambulance crews, tow truck drivers and anyone else in the area drive behind the store to deter illegal dumpers and the public immediately call 911 when they see someone unloading anything behind the store after it’s closed.
The parking lot also can be seen from Hazle Street and Pennsylvania Boulevard.
The store is open seven days a week, but donations are accepted only from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
Mateo said she’s seeking quotes from security companies to have an officer sit in a vehicle behind the store at least some evenings, but that can be expensive. She’d welcome any volunteers who would be willing to do so and report illegal dumping.
She said she hopes city Mayor Tony George’s recently announced initiative to begin a large-item collection in August will help curb the illegal dumping problem.
City residents can buy up to two $10 stickers per household and attach them to large items such as furniture and appliances for collection.
There are problems at area Salvation Army and Goodwill stores too, but not as many.
Kate Dempsey Jones, CEO of Goodwill Industries of Northeastern Pennsylvania, said illegal dumping is “absolutely” a problem at some of the nonprofit’s thrift stores, and “it’s a costly one.”
Jones said the installation of surveillance cameras outside the stores has deterred most scofflaws.
Doug Motley, warehouse manager at the Salvation Army thrift store in Hanover Township, said security cameras are well-positioned outside the store, so illegal dumping is minimal. He attributed the VOA’s problem to people “who do house clean-outs” and don’t want to pay landfill tipping fees.
Motley said he was amazed when he passed the VOA thrift store Sunday after church and saw the pile of illegally dumped items.
“I’ve never seen a pile like that before,” Motley said.
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HOW THEY HELP
Volunteers of America Thrift Stores sell new and gently used items. Sale proceeds support programs that help veterans, families in need, the elderly, disabled and homeless, as well as mental health services, affordable housing, community enhancement services, employment and training.
Store volunteers are always needed and welcome. Call 570-829-5100 for more information.