Still time to donate, get tax deduction

Fast upon the heels of Christmas donations for the needy comes the end of the year and another way to help, earn a tax deduction and declutter.

While this last week of the year is normally a big one for charities, many report a slow donation season. But there are ways to shake it up yet.

Did you know, for example, that someone recovering from a stroke could use that cane gathering dust in your closet, or that a woman fleeing domestic abuse might get a new start in the car you want to sell?

Donating goods by the end of the year Friday can earn income-tax deductions for 2010.

"There's lots of people needing help," said Tom Reed, owner of D&R Motors in Maize. He runs a program out of Holy Savior Catholic Church that accepts donated cars for the needy. "It's been slow this year," Reed said, figuring that 40 or 50 cars have been given to the program.

The cars can be in any condition — Reed and his staff donate their time to repair cars that need it, and cars that don't run can be sold for scrap. Clients who receive a car are charged a minimal fee, maybe $350, and given time to pay it, "so they know that they didn't get it for free, and they take better care of it," Reed said.

Then 75 percent of that money goes to Holy Savior Academy and 25 percent to a fund to repair cars for the needy. "If you're a single mom and you have three kids and your timing chain goes out, we have a fund so that we can put the chain in your car for you."

This last week of the year usually brings a small increase in car donations, Reed said. For more information, call him at 316-208-4090.

Another thing to donate is medical equipment. The Medical Equipment Recycling Network run by the Independent Living Resource Center offers such things as wheelchairs and grab bars to anyone who needs them, asking only that the equipment be returned when it is no longer needed.

"We have a particular need for shower chairs, toilet risers, grab bars," said Deb Umberger of the center. "You ought to be able to go to the bathroom with as little help as possible," and yet those basic adaptive tools of privacy are not covered by Medicaid, she said.

The center, which works with disabled people to help them be independent, also needs non-motorized wheelchairs and canes, donations of Ensure or other vitamin-supplement drinks and adult undergarments such as Depends.

The center is at 3033 W. Second St. and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today. But it will be closed Friday. For more information, call 316-942-6300, Ext. 214.

To be eligible for a tax deduction, donated items must be in good condition. Trying to dump poor-quality items on a charity not only doesn't qualify for a deduction, it can cost the charity money.

The Disabled American Veterans Thrift Stores, for example, provide free pick-up of large items such as televisions and appliances that are in good condition. Sometimes, the appliances are dead on arrival, said Patty Pratz, operations manager.

"We do a lot of recycling of shoes and clothing" if it's in bad shape, Pratz said, selling it to manufacturers who shred it to make new products. "The big problem is the person who says, 'Oh, that refrigerator works,' and it doesn't and it costs me $45 to get rid of it.... My waste bill runs $5,000 a month."

While this week is big for thrift stores taking in donations, "we have not been as deluged as we have in years past," Pratz said. "The whole season since September forward has been a little slow on donations. In my opinion it's because of the economy. People are holding onto things and they're doing more trading and bartering with friends and family members and neighbors."

Donations that are especially needed: shoes. "We always need shoes," Pratz said. "We're doing pretty good on winter coats right now, but sweaters and warmer children's clothing we're a little low on."

Her advice if you want to give: Don't wait until Friday afternoon. "We are going to be closing all donation docks by 4 o'clock." Stores are at 5455 E. Central, 4623 W. Central, 4720 S. Seneca, 1202 W. Douglas and 3015 George Washington Blvd.

If you have an item that you need to have picked up, "we are swamped for this week," Pratz said, but you can call to see if there's a cancellation. Otherwise, expect the pick-up to be in January. The phone number: 316-262-7440.

To qualify for a tax deduction, a donation must be given to a tax-qualified charitable organization. This can be a church or other religious organization or a group with a 501(c)(3) designation.