Out of the Closet Thrift Shop
and Foundation, Inc.
Founded 1986, Opened 1991


HomeThe BeginningsContinued SuccessAfter 9-11Closing Fiasco & Debacle

Out of the Closet: Closing Fiasco & Housing Works Debacle

Maloney confessed, "I must tell you, after 15 years, our decision caused a bit of despair, many sleepless nights, and even some tears. Many people have asked what we did with our incredible stock! In seeking to be true to the cause toward which things had been donated, I approached the high-profile Housing Works, a $41-million-a-year operation that had just won almost $5 million in a settlement from the City for alleged discrimination. I offered to turn over the entire stock from the shop and our four storage rooms in return for a reciprocal donation to this Foundation. This was refused with the comment 'Housing Works doesn't have to pay for anything,' but after an inspection of our stock the President of Housing Works drew up a contract promising to pick up, display, hold a gala sale with invitations for our volunteers and customers, and feature our things in their windows and their online auction for 50 days during August and September 2005 with monthly accounting and statements to us, and to share 50-50 with payment to our AIDS foundation at the end of those two months.

"Thus, we all undertook the biggest project yet. For 90 days straight, we worked 10- to 16-hour days and packed up everything for the 23 trucks that made 19 pickups for Housing Works. The quantities and quality astounded even us: more than 24,000 books in 446 boxes; more than 20,000 LP records in 211 boxes; 83 cartons of more than 1000 original artworks; more than 2,400 bags and 78 cartons that included over 1,000 pieces of Armani, 5,000 pieces of silk, and over 7,000 pieces of jewelry. The almost 500 cartons of bric-a-brac included 14 filled with silver and others containing thousands of antiques.

"Once they had made all the pickups, we suddenly heard nothing from Housing Works. Unfortunately, many people whom we sent to the designated Housing Works' store didn't see our things and were often told by Housing Works' employees that Housing Works hadn't gotten them or that they 'were overwhelmed' and that 'it was all being badly managed.' An approximate conservative market value of the transferred merchandise was $2.25 million.

"When our phone calls were not returned for a couple of months after the transfer, Housing Works finally responded to two certified letters and stated that they 'fulfilled all obligations' and 'rang total sales for OOTC merchandise of $24,929.69, in which 1/2 goes to OOTC ($12,464.05).'

"This episode thus turned into the worst experience of our 15 years. Our small organization worked day and night to give Housing Works much more than they or even we anticipated, and we saw little evidence that Housing Works made much effort to promote, display, or make our merchandise available as they had contractually agreed, even when requested to do so by customers. We couldn't get the help that they frequently offered, we saw no evidence of the advance publicity that I was told not to pursue myself because they 'had professionals who do this all the time,' and we received none of the promised invitations for our volunteers and supporters to the promised 'gala' sale. In fact, we saw no evidence that our merchandise was featured at such an event or in their windows or on their online auction.

"Many customers looking for specific interests such as the more than 24,000 books, including hundreds of autographed and large art books, were told by Housing Works employees that they never received books from us! No one saw our 7,000 pieces of jewelry, the silver, or the more than 2,000 silk ties, the 20,000 records and thousands of bags of folded silk. Major retrospective accounting and explanation is needed, and we will report here on future developments. Since these experiences, other donors of large and important charitable donations have come forth to say that they also had similar serious problems with Housing Works and the disappearance of picked up donations. From our extensive knowledge in the charitable field and of thrift shop operations, and with such experience to date, this is certainly not an organization that we are able to recommend to anyone for charity, management, reliability or anything for that matter."


Edward Maloney at the entrance of Out of the Closet Thrift Shop and Stable.

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