Ashes to Trashes

goodwill donations’Tis the season for returning gifts, but this week’s odd news is about one gift the store didn’t want.

Headline: Goodwill Workers Find Cremated Remains in Donation

Two boxes containing cremated remains were accidentally donated to an Indiana Goodwill. The report says “accidentally,” but maybe Great Aunt Mabel and Uncle Horace really liked to shop at this Goodwill store. Maybe the family was just honoring their last wishes – returning them to a happier place where they could spend eternity on a shelf next to other old curiosities.

Goodwill employees were really grossed out when they opened the boxes and found the remains. “Ash got absolutely everywhere!” reported one employee. “So we called the cops.”

It’s not actually illegal to donate cremated human remains – they’ve been sanitized after all – and it’s not even against store policy. “We are happy to accept all donations,” reiterated a Goodwill spokeswoman through clenched teeth, “no matter how strange we think you are.”

“I suppose it could have been worse,” said one store  employee, “they could have been donated prior to cremation.”

Police were called in only to help find the family and return the remains – assuming the family wanted the remains returned – and to share a good laugh.

Recycle body parts_edited-1
Goodwill Recycles

Goodwill employees often encounter strange donations. In July, a human skull was donated to Austin Goodwill – the fourth of the year. Other strange donations have included hand grenades, a missile launcher, false teeth, various stuffed animals (not the cuddly ones), and even great wads of cash.

There’s a market for everything.

In what may have been the best deal in history, a painting purchased for $3 at a South Carolina Goodwill sold for $192,000 at auction. But it’s unclear whether this particular story is about the fortunate buyer, the unfortunate donor, or the Goodwill employees who couldn’t spot a Flemish masterpiece if it bit them on the ass.

Donating ashes to Goodwill seems to be becoming a trendy burial practice especially in the Northeast (and here) and there have been reports of cremated remains being donated in Massachusetts, Texas, Nevada, and Utah.

Grandmas urn
Where Grandma’s Ashes End Up

In Michigan, a box left by a very organized donor was labeled “Grandma’s urn” and contained… um, an urn … containing … um, what presumably used to be Grandma.

Unfortunately, the rightful owner of the Michigan urn has yet to be discovered and there’s not really a market for used cremation urns (or unwanted, incinerated grandmas).

Happily, the outcome was very different for the Indiana ashes. The family was found and positively identified the ashes (the family resemblance was obvious).

The family’s reaction could have ranged anywhere from “I’ve never seen these ashes before in my life!” to “No, you keep them, they’re a gift!”, but apparently the reaction was “So there they are! We’ve been looking everywhere!” It seems that the family forgot the ashes were in a box in a bag in another box in the attic.

It’s unknown what the family plans to do with the remains now they have been returned, but Salvation Army should be on the look-out.

I’m Jae and this message, written with a sound-ish mind, is to say that I do not want my ashes donated to Goodwill – find a nice up-market consignment shop instead.


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