Donating Your Unwanted Items

A Great Way to Support the Troops

thrift shop
Getty Images/Justin Sullivan / Staff

Whether you're in the midst of spring or fall housecleaning, preparing for a PCS move or simply gearing up for a household organization project, there are several military-friendly places that are more than willing to accept your gently used clothing, toys, books, and other household items. The result? A better-organized and more-clutter-free home for you, and much-needed help for military families.

To get you started, here are several places and organizations that are in need of various items.


Clothes, Shoes, Toys, and Household Items

Many active duty military installations have at least one thrift shop that serves military families. For example, Air Force Bases have the Airman's Attic; the Army has various thrift shops—such as Fort Campbell's Backdoor Boutique—that are located on numerous posts; and the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society has dozens of thrift shops located on bases within the United States and OCONUS.

Most of the thrift shops accept gently used clothes, shoes, toys, household items, small appliances, CDs, DVDs, and furniture. Their hours of operation vary but most shops have drop off bins which is great for those times when you can't get there during normal operating hours.



There are several ways to donate used books to deployed servicemembers. Operation Paperback and Books for Soldiers both allow you to send your books directly to servicemembers.

Books for Troops has a different model where you send your books to the organization, which distributes them.

Military hospitals and rehabilitation facilities warmly welcome donated reading material, and most pediatric units will gladly accept children's books. However, just to be on the safe side, before you load up your car with boxes of books and haul them to any medical facility, call ahead and confirm that they do, indeed, accept donated books, as well as when and how to make that happen..



If you have a working Kindle or other e-reader that you no longer use, you may be able to donate it to one of the organizations listed above. They'll service the device and send it to a deployed servicemember.


Cell Phones, Smart Phones, and Tablets

Cell Phones for Soldiers is a non-profit that has been around since 2004. They take donations of smart phones, cell phones, and tablets, which they distribute to servicemembers who might not otherwise be able to keep in touch with their family during a deployment. You can either ship your devices to the organization or drop them off at a location near you. On their website, you'll find info on how to print shipping labels as well as a listing of drop-off locations.If you've got a relatively new device and you're not quite ready to make a donation, this organization will help you sell your device to a company that will donate 15% of the trade-in price. 


Furniture and Appliances

Besides the thrift shops on military installations, Operation Homefront is another great place to donate your furniture and/or large appliances. To find a chapter near you, please go to the Operation Homefront Web site and find your location from the drop-down in the upper-right corner of the page.


Paper Bags from the Commissary

Instead of throwing away the paper sacks that you get from the commissary, you might want to consider donating them to food pantries. Why? Because they're sturdy and they make it easier for recipients to transport the items from the food pantry to their home.

Not sure where to find a food pantry? There are probably a few within just a few miles of your home. Most military installations have emergency food banks to help meet the needs of military families that are in a financial crisis. Off base, many counties have food pantries, as do many churches, synagogues, and other community organizations..


Edited and updated by Armin Brott, December 2016