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It’s a thrift store, not a dump

Thrift store volunteer Libby Martin looks in at the various bits of waste left for her and other volunteers to clean up from behind the Thrift store just in the past week. - Andrew Bennett photo
Thrift store volunteer Libby Martin looks in at the various bits of waste left for her and other volunteers to clean up from behind the Thrift store just in the past week.
— image credit: Andrew Bennett photo

Rossland’s thrift store is being weighed down by careless “donations” of dirty clothes, broken toys, damaged equipment, and other useless sundries, its operators say.

The Rossland News met with a group of volunteer sorters one Thursday morning, and the women emphasized that the thrift shop is a re-use charity, not a dump, nor a repair shop, nor a laundry, nor a warehouse for large furniture or big appliances.

The thrift store is run by an executive that meets once a month to discuss issues, but more importantly by a team of 68 volunteers who come out on Monday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to noon to sort items, or on Wednesday and Friday to clerk. They’ve been very successful, raising more than half a million dollars for health-related projects in the last decade.

“It’s a great thing,” agreed Helen McLellan about the thrift store, “but our problem is the garbage, stuff we can’t sell.” McLellan is the president of the Rossland Health Care Auxiliary Society for which the thrift store is the prime fundraiser.

During the interview, the recycling man turned up at the back door, hopping mad that so much junk was in his way — again, apparently. And it most certainly was, all junk left as gifts for the thrift store volunteers to dump or, in the case of large furniture and appliances, move somewhere else.

Earlier in the morning, a woman had come by the back of the thrift store to drop off some items, including a broken chair. One of the thrift store volunteers was watching and let her know that the chair wasn’t wanted, at which point the woman tried to dispose of the chair in the thrift store dumpster.

“Oh, don’t you dare!” the volunteer was reported to say, but despite her good efforts, by 10 a.m. we found a dysfunctional baby carriage, broken lawn chairs, two sofas that were too large for the ladies to handle, and sports equipment that wasn’t “safe, legal, or even fun” as McLellan said while holding a helmet with a large dent in one side.

“Would you believe that someone actually left some dirty diapers alongside the dumpster?” said volunteer Libby Martin, pointing out that many people don’t seem to realize that the dumpster behind the thrift store is not for public disposal and costs the auxiliary money to empty.

The dump is “a bit of a sore spot for us,” McLellan allowed.

“Allan Davies is a saint, he’s been paying for our garbage while he fights with the regional district. Other organizations like us — such as the Sally Ann — get one free dumping per month. But we don’t have a truck, so we have to rely on Allan. He has scales on his truck, but they won’t listen to that.”

“We have a lot of garbage, and [Allan] has been paying for it, but I think that’s going to turn around and we’re going to be paying for it. That’s going to really cut into our profits.”

When choosing what to give to the thrift store, clearly, one man’s trash is often another’s treasure, but there are limits.

The 68 volunteers mostly have well-defined tasks, and “the majority of the people who clerk on open days aren’t necessarily sorters, and won’t necessarily see what we see on Monday and Thursday,” said Martin. “[The sorters] get discouraged when people are dumping their garbage.”

McLellan suggests donors ask themselves, “would I buy this?”

The thrift store has no interest in clothing that isn’t washed, or has holes, missing buttons, and broken zippers. At best, torn cotton clothing can be turned into rags.

“It’ll be torn here, torn there, they just don’t want to throw it away,” she said.

“They wouldn’t buy it themselves, but they think other people will.”

“We want clothing clean and in good repair,” McLellan said.

“The appliances and that kind of thing, we want them working. We don’t them to come in without a cord, or a broken anything. There are standards — you can’t sell things that aren’t in good order.”

Old toys are fine, but broken toys are out. If a screw’s missing, find one and put it in before sending it off. Out of date tools for which batteries aren’t made or parts aren’t available are not welcome. Computers and televisions can be dropped off in Trail.

“Everyone’s got that box in their basement that’s been sitting there for 15 years. They’ll just pick that up and bring it here!” McLellan exclaimed, incredulous. “It’s so dirty!”

The Rossland auxiliary has been in operation since 1938 and is now under higher governance at regional, provincial, and federal levels, but the auxiliary volunteers and executive choose the specific projects that they support after bills are paid —water, electricity, phone, and to maintain the building, which they own.

“We pick what we pay for,” McLellan said about the projects they auxiliary funds. “We’ve bought defibrillators for the fire department, we helped with the rescue boat. If someone comes to us with a project that’s health related, we help.”

The auxiliary also gives two $1,000 scholarships per year, one to RSS for someone going into the health-care field, and one to the nursing program at Selkirk College.

 

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