Charitable groups feeling the driver shortage sting: How you can help

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Posted at 2:29 PM, Nov 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-14 14:29:16-05

MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WXYZ) — The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is usually pretty busy around the holidays, but this year, some of its thrift stores tell 7 Action News they've seen a shopper surge like never before.

At the store in Madison Heights, Fridays have been extremely busy with near-record sales, according to staff. There's also a growing need for help, said board of trustees President Nancy Szlezyngier.

Many of the pandemic moratoriums that were in place this time last year have since expired, and Szlezyngier said the Society is seeing the impacts of that.

And right now, the ongoing driver shortage is hitting charitable organizations in a big way, just as they're needed the most.

“If we don’t have the number of drivers that we need, then we have a hard time doing the pickups obviously," Szlezyngier told 7 Action News.

Early on in the pandemic, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul saw a huge influx of donations. At one point, its Utica store had 700 cars circle through with donations in a single day.

But without direct drop-offs like that, the organization, which serves six counties throughout southeast Michigan, is struggling to get donated goods from point A to point B.

Generally, the Society has six drivers and right now, they're working with just three, according to Szlezyngier.

Marylin Barlow of Berkeley stopped by the thrift store in Madison Heights to drop off some clothing. It's something she does on a regular basis, she told 7 Action News.

But Sunday, with a bin nearly overflowing, getting her items inside was a bit of a challenge.

"You need a little elbow grease," Barlow joked after she was able to push her bag in.

To help ease the burden of it's 120 donation bins, the Society is working with a company to move certain donated items like furniture.

“They will pick up donations at people’s homes. And then they’re going to bring the donations directly to our stores," Szlezyngier said.

The driver and overall worker shortage is also impacting the Salvation Army.

“As we were losing drivers through natural attrition it was difficult to rehire them," said Major Timothy Meyer with the Salvation Army Eastern Michigan Division.

He said they've upped pay to try and bring in more staff, drivers especially. But it's a work in progress.

“The long and short of it is: We simply do not have enough drivers for our thrift stores to do in-home pickups," he said.

Charitable groups like the Salvation Army and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul may be extra busy right now, but they operate year-round. Meyer said they're looking at not just the holidays but also to the future.

Right now, the need for winter clothing is especially high, and it's helpful if you're able to deliver donations to the stores.

To find locations to donate, visit the Salvation Army's website or Society of St. Vincent de Paul's website.