In a season when many of us are focused on gift buying or a tax deduction, December is a good time to think about another kind of giving: donating.
Even if you are tapped out financially, you can still give back by donating clothing and household items you no longer use. You don't have to spend money to be charitable -- and the things lying around your house can have more of an impact than you may realize.
Goodwill® is counting down the top 10 things to donate before the end of the year. We're also letting you know exactly how much of an impact each item can have.
Computers and their peripherals contain electronic parts that are hazardous to the environment if not disposed of properly. Don't discard an old computer at the end of its useful life -- recycle it through a program such as Dell Reconnect. Just remember to remove personal data from hard drives and other storage media before donating to Goodwill.
Impact: Donating or recycling one computer can provide 6.6 hours of job skills training for someone like Wayne Quamina, who was forced to quit his long career in carpentry after suffering from congestive heart failure, but he learned new skills through a Goodwill program. Today, he helps build parts for Gulfstream airplanes.
Get a new cooking set during the holidays? Don't gift rid of those pots and pans you will no longer use. Gently used kitchenware can be donated at most Goodwill locations.
Impact: Donate five kitchen items and you will provide 23 minutes of financial planning class for a single mom like Stephanie Gayle, who learned financial literacy, job search and placement strategies, and résumé development that helped her land and keep a job.
8. Video Games
Did your child just have to have the latest (and likely the most expensive) video game this year? Make a deal: for every new video game, donate two they don't play anymore.
Impact: Donate 10 video games and you can provide 47 minutes of on-the-job training for someone like Sarouet Ouk, who dropped out of school but found a green job and got back on track educationally, thanks to a Goodwill job training program.
Upgrading from paperbacks to a Kindle or iPad this year? You know where I'm going with this....
Impact: Donate 15 books and provide 26 minutes of career counseling for a veteran like Jason Tobey, a Marine Corps veteran who struggled to find employment after being honorably discharged from the military.
You've got all your songs saved on hard drives and mp3 players. Do you really need those hundreds of old CDs taking up space in the back of your closet?
Impact: Donate 20 CDs and provide 1.4 hours of a job search class for someone like Cheryl Godwin, an Army veteran with kids in college who had never searched for a job in her life, but needed to find a way to make extra income to support her family.
5. Cell Phones
Unused cell phones are one of the fastest growing types of trash in America. Instead of discarding your old phone, recycle or donate it -- but remember to remove any of your personal data!
Impact: Donating used goods of all kinds doesn't just help clean out your closets, it provides valuable services to millions of Americans every year. And it's easy. Join the Donate Movement and calculate your impact.
4. Household items
Lamps, frames, vases, curios, baskets and collectibles are just some of the knick-knacks we love to sell at Goodwill.
Impact: Donate three lamps and a mug, and you can provide 39 minutes of job training for someone like Tabitha Nobles, who was homeless after splitting up with her husband, but she learned how to keep going through a Goodwill Career Connections class.
Yes, Goodwill and other thrift stores take big-ticket items like bikes. When your children have outgrown theirs, or you've moved on to a new bike, consider donating the old ones.
Impact: Donate a bike and you can fund 27 minutes of job training for someone like Mel Yawn, who was born with spina bifida and faced a difficult time finding employment, but he now works for shopgoodwill.com.
2. Gift Cards
Billions of dollars in holiday gift cards go unused every year. You can donate an unwanted gift card -- with any unused amount on it -- to your local Goodwill.
Impact: Help provide a job for someone like Kris Jacques, who has been in a wheelchair from birth and was long unable to find employers willing to give him a chance, until he landed a position as a donor greeter at a Goodwill store.
Textiles include clothes such as suits, pants, dresses and shirts. You name it, we'll take it. They are the largest volume of items we receive and sell. Donating clothes not only funds job training programs, but also provides new outfits for Goodwill job seekers.
Impact: Donate one bag of clothes and you can provide 1.1 hours of résumé preparation for someone like Devin Williams, a person with a criminal background who struggled with addiction but got his life back on track and is pursuing a career in environmental engineering.
So, what do you plan to donate before the end of the year? Calculate the impact of your donations at donate.goodwill.org and tell us about it in the comments below.
Follow Jim Gibbons on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@jdgibbons