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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spring Clean for A Good Cause

One day you suddenly realize that your apartment is overflowing with junk, your wardrobes are bulging with the burden of clothes you never wear, and old furniture is interfering with your feng shui.

Fortunately, there are more options for your old things than the neighborhood dumpster. A little effort, and they can find their way to people who need them.

When trying to unload unwanted possessions, many people still opt for placing an ad in the "Iz Ruk v Ruki" newspaper or simply pasting a note by the mailboxes in their apartment building. Old furniture is gladly taken by dacha owners who are preparing for the new season.

But there are also ways to help a person in need with stuff you want to get rid of. Orphanages, boarding schools and other children's institutions often don't have even the basics, and volunteer organizations that serve them will collect and distribute donations. One place to try is, an Orthodox Church-supported organization with a hotline and a network of volunteers in Moscow. You can either search its database for churches that have clothing banks (68 in Moscow) or call them directly about large or bulky items.

Vladimir Filonov / MT
Picking up some new clothes at the city's decontamination center near Kurskaya.
You can also donate to an institution of your choice directly. However, it is advisable to contact the intended recipient beforehand. Things that orphanages generally don't need are stuffed toys, clothing that is fancy or requires special care, and old computers: They break down quickly, and there is nobody who can repair them. The other thing to keep in mind is that Moscow institutions are generally well equipped, while those farther away from big cities are the most needy.

"Boarding schools, and especially correctional institutions for children with developmental disorders, tend to have a much greater need than orphanages," said Svetlana Rozanova, director of the Detskiye Domiki foundation. Its web site lists more than 4,000 children's institutions all over Russia, including their phone numbers and addresses.

While many organizations serving Moscow orphanages frequently refuse used items, there is also a network of centers operating through the Moscow Department of Social Security, serving low-income households. The focus of these donation points is clothing for children and teenagers, but they often accept adults' clothing, and even items such as pianos, a representative of the department said. Every district of the city has several centers, and to find the one nearest to you, call the department's charity office or enter your address on its web site. Local centers know the needs of households that request their assistance, and your unneeded items are likely to find a new owner.

Another option for used clothing is to take it to the city's decontamination center (pictured on pages 15 and 16) near the Kurskaya metro station. It takes donations 24 hours a day, and as this is a destination known to Moscow's homeless, donated garments go fast. Although it accepts all clothing, the center is mostly frequented by adults.

Also serving the homeless is Caritas, a Catholic organization.

"We especially need men's clothing, even underwear," said Caritas' director, Olga Komissarova.

Vladimir Filonov / MT
The decontamination center accepts all clothing, and donated items tend to go fast.
Most clothing banks ask that you wash your donations and make sure they don't have holes. The exception is the decontamination center, which gives out clothes after disinfecting them. But still, it seems that too many people don't treat the act of donating any differently from putting things in the garbage can.

"Sometimes we would get a sweater with a sleeve missing -- those unusable garments just end up crowding our storage rooms," said Natalya Alexandrova of Grazhdanskoye Sodeistviye, an organization that helps refugees. "People that come to us for help are doctors, teachers, and other professionals, it's just that they were displaced by war and don't have anything left."

Grazhdanskoye Sodeistviye accepts clothing, shoes, furniture, dishes and books that can be used in the school for refugee children.

What about oddball things that are not clothing bank candidates? An Internet resource for people looking to obtain or dispose of various items is the web site Otdam Darom, which serves as a free marketplace. In the spirit of the U.S. Freecycle network, the searchable forum yields anything from samovars to remains of a drum set. Even if you have 10 kilograms of small coins -- who knows, there might be a craft enthusiast looking to build a kopek sculpture.


Arbat Social Services Center,

21/1 Trubnikovsky Per., 291-4815,

M. Smolenskaya/Arbatskaya.

Basmanny Social Services Center, 36/3-4 Baumanskaya Ul., 261-2223,

M. Baumanskaya

Caritas accepts donations on Mon. and Tue. from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., 13/18 Myasnitskaya Ul., 956-0585, 976-2438, M. Turgenevskaya/Chistiye Prudy,

City Social Security Department charity office, 207-3202,

Detskiye Domiki foundation, 799-7672, children's institution database:

Grazhdanskoye Sodeistviye, 33/6 Dolgorukovskaya Ul., 251-5319, 973-5443, M. Novoslobodskaya, Donations accepted 10 a.m.-6 p.m. or later if arranged in advance.

Miloserdiye, 107-7001, church clothing banks' database:

Moscow Decontamination Center accepts donations 24 hours, 4a Nizhny Susalny Per., 265-1272, M. Kurskaya.

Murzik serves orphans, handicapped people, and low-income families. Donation collection on Fri., 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the main gate of Novodevichy Monastery, 1 Novodevichy Proyezd, M. Sportivnaya. For a list of accepted items see

Otdam Darom,