Airman's Attic receives influx of donations

Plastic bins of toys, books and electronics rest in a pickup truck bed destined for the base recycle center July 15, 2014, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. These items are from the Airman's Attic, a collection and distribution point that allows service members to shop for donated items at no cost. The summer months can increase the numbers of military members moving to a new base, so the amount of donations typically triples in this timeframe. Donations are evaluated for wear and tear, and the older items are recycled. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee/Released)

Plastic bins of toys, books and electronics rest in a pickup truck bed destined for the base recycle center July 15, 2014, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. These items are from the Airman's Attic, a collection and distribution point that allows service members to shop for donated items at no cost. The summer months can increase the numbers of military members moving to a new base, so the amount of donations typically triples in this timeframe. Donations are evaluated for wear and tear, and the older items are recycled. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee/Released)

Donations line the sidewalk outside the Airman's Attic facility July 15, 2014, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. The Airman's Attic accepts all donations and acts as a point where service members can shop at no cost, but an increase in donations has caused the staff to move the bigger items outside. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee/Released)

Donations line the sidewalk outside the Airman's Attic facility July 15, 2014, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. The Airman's Attic accepts all donations and acts as a point where service members can shop at no cost, but an increase in donations has caused the staff to move the bigger items outside. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee/Released)

Herta Retterbush, Airman’s Attic volunteer; U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Solomon Wright, 606th Air Control Squadron cyber operations technician from Havre de Grace, Md.; and Staff Sgt. Debonnae Cheeks, 606th ACS cyber operations technician from Melrose Park, Ill., sort clothes and other items in the staff room of the Airman's Attic July 15, 2014, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. The staff comprises an all-volunteer force from both military and civilian occupations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee/Released)

Herta Retterbush, Airman’s Attic volunteer; U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Solomon Wright, 606th Air Control Squadron cyber operations technician from Havre de Grace, Md.; and Staff Sgt. Debonnae Cheeks, 606th ACS cyber operations technician from Melrose Park, Ill., sort clothes and other items in the staff room of the Airman's Attic July 15, 2014, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. The staff comprises an all-volunteer force from both military and civilian occupations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee/Released)

Loralei, daughter of U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Justin Blakeman, 52nd Component Maintenance Squadron and native of Gonzales, La., selects a toy July 15, 2014, from the children section of the Airman's Attic at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. The Attic collects donations from base members and redistributes them at no cost to service members. However, a recent influx of donations to the Attic has forced the staff to recycle nearly 1,000 pounds of toys, dishware, electronics and books a month. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee/Released)

Loralei, daughter of U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Justin Blakeman, 52nd Component Maintenance Squadron and native of Gonzales, La., selects a toy July 15, 2014, from the children section of the Airman's Attic at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. The Attic collects donations from base members and redistributes them at no cost to service members. However, a recent influx of donations to the Attic has forced the staff to recycle nearly 1,000 pounds of toys, dishware, electronics and books a month. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee/Released)

Caroline Pritchert, Airman's Attic coordinator, smiles for a photo July 15, 2014, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. The Attic is sponsored by the 52nd Force Support Squadron's Airman and Family Readiness Center, and Pritchert oversees the daily operations of the facility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee/Released)

Caroline Pritchert, Airman's Attic coordinator, smiles for a photo July 15, 2014, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. The Attic is sponsored by the 52nd Force Support Squadron's Airman and Family Readiness Center, and Pritchert oversees the daily operations of the facility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee/Released)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- The number of items donated to the Airman's Attic here has nearly tripled due to the summer months' high rate of service members transitioning to and from Germany.

The Attic acts as a collection and distribution point that aims to help military families offset their living expenses by providing a central facility to shop for donated items at no cost.

"The more donations we receive means more items for the Airmen," said Caroline Pritchert, Airman's Attic coordinator. "We treat them like they're our family, since they're so far from home. We're as friendly as possible and really hope they can get the stuff they need to make their stay overseas enjoyable."

But the high amount of donations comes with a cost.

"We can sometimes get overwhelmed with stuff," she said, gesturing to the facility's shelves stocked with electronics, clothing and cookware. "We don't have room for the bigger items, so they're spilling out onto the sidewalk now.

"We're calling it a sidewalk sale, or giveaway, I guess," she said with a laugh. "You can't call it a sale when everything is for free."

The items on display are completely free for any Spangdahlem service member, and the Attic's all-volunteer staff works to sort out the good from the bad when it comes to donations. Boxes, bags, bins and piles of donated items usually await the staff every day, and they evaluate the items for serviceability and wear-and-tear. The damaged items -- about 1,000 pounds a month -- can then be transported to the base's recycling center.

Clothes, shoes and toys that are useable but too old to meet display criteria are separated and donated to non-profit organizations such as the American Red Cross, German Red Cross or local orphanages.

However, if an item is deemed beneficial for customers, it finds a spot on the shelf ... hardly staying long enough to gather dust.

The Attic staff requires each visitor to sign in when he or she arrives. Then, the customer must sign out with the total number of items taken, which usually averages between 3,000 and 5,000 a month.

"I wish someone had told me about this place when I first got here," said Attic volunteer Kris Keyser. "There's no limit to what you can find here. It can have everything you need to get yourself settled."

Keyser said that at one time, there was an Airman who moved to Germany and his bags didn't arrive with the plane. The Attic staff was able to provide him with dishes, pots and pans, plainclothes, military uniforms, and even underwear still in the package.

Pritchert recommends that with the recent influx of items, now is the time for a visit to the Attic. She invites any newcomers or anyone interested to see what the facility has to offer. For more information about the program, call the 52nd Force Support Squadron's Airman and Family Readiness Center at DSN 452-6422 or 06565-61-6422.

Hours of Operation

The Attic is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Picking Up Items

Only active-duty members and their dependents are authorized regular access to the Airman's Attic. Other military ID card holders can use the Attic once each month during the "grab bag" day, which is usually held the last Thursday of each month. However, "grab bag" days can be held whenever the Attic coordinator authorizes it, based off the overflow of items currently in the facility.

Also, the items acquired from the Attic must be for personal use only -- meaning any members who sell those items for profit will have their privileges revoked and their commander will be notified.

All ranks may use the Attic, but there are certain restrictions based on rank. Service members and their dependents of rank E-5 and below can take 15 items per visit with a total of 50 items per month. Ranks E-6 and higher may take 15 items per visit with a total of 30 items per month.

Donations

Donations are accepted during work hours only, and volunteers will evaluate the item to determine if it is acceptable for the Attic. Broken or damaged items are taken to the base recycling center.

Large furniture or appliances cannot be displayed because of the limited amount of space in the facility. The Attic staff will accept photographs of larger items for a request board and advertise their pickup.