GREEN BAY — “We Help People” is the motto for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul-Green Bay, which has been a part of the community for more than 50 years. Donating to the society via blue donation boxes is a common practice for many locals; a way to help those who help others.
After evaluating the costs and benefits of the blue donation boxes that have become well-known in the community, the management team at St. Vincent de Paul made the decision to remove all donation boxes.
“There’s kind of a multiple layer to why they were being removed but basically because of the challenges of managing the donations that were given at those sites and managing the theft that was happening there,” said Jody Kasten, managing director of St. Vincent de Paul-Green Bay.
“The last two years we’ve been re-evaluating the boxes and trying different methods to try to manage it,” Kasten said. “We actually had the (Northeast Wisconsin Technical College) students do some surveillance on the boxes.”
With a total of 24 donation boxes scattered throughout Green Bay and the surrounding community, donations could be dropped off at any time. The majority of the boxes were located in church parking lots, but several other locations were used as well, including gas stations and service stations. The easy access provided a simple way to donate; however, the accessibility also led to high rates of theft.
“People were seen putting their children inside of the box, throwing the stuff outside of the box to them so that they could go through and pick out the best stuff,” Kasten said. “Others would rip open the bags and rummage through and pick out what they wanted. We’d find devices like golf clubs and things inside the boxes with ripped up bags and things where they were digging and trying to pull them out.”
In addition to theft, having unmanned donation boxes meant a high number of unusable donations. St. Vincent de Paul has a list of items they cannot accept, but without someone regulating the boxes, these items were often found inside. Exposure to the elements, especially rain, often ruined items left outside the boxes.
“We were basically sending a truck to go pick it up to go throw it away,” Kasten said. “Things get rained on and they get damaged. The minute that somebody leaves something outside there’s a high likelihood that it’s not going to be usable for us.”
Once the decision was made in mid-June, all donation boxes were pulled out of the community. Just a few weeks in, there is a noticeable change in donations. “We don’t have as much coming into the building now,” Kasten said. “But the quality has increased.”
Fewer trips to the landfill means less money spent by the organization, money which can now be put back into the community.
“Trying to control our landfill cost … helps us to save money so that we can use that money that we work very hard to earn so that we can use it for helping people,” she said.
St. Vincent de Paul asks that donations be dropped off at their donation center, located at 1529 Leo Frigo Way in Green Bay. Donations can be dropped off Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., or on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Donations need to be made “during hours of operation,” Kasten said. “That’s another place (after-hour donations) that we experience a lot of theft and rummaging through.”
“We are very, very grateful for and appreciate those donations,” said Kasten. “It wasn’t an easy decision (to remove the boxes) because obviously having those boxes out there is a visible presence for St. Vincent de Paul in the community. It reminds people we’re here.”