Of late I’ve morphed into the Christmas Lady at the MCC(Mennonite Central Committee) Thrift Store on Selkirk Avenue where I have been volunteering now for about five years. Inspired by the example of both my mother and mother-in-law who were volunteers in MCC stores in Steinbach, Manitoba and Leamington, Ontario for many years I decided to make that part of my retirement plan too. I started out working at the front counter of the store getting to know all the interesting people in the neighborhood who are regular visitors and the wonderful volunteers who operate the cash register and help clients find the items they are looking for. Then when the woman who took care of sorting and pricing books needed to take a leave of absence I replaced her for nearly a year. When she returned and my services were no longer needed as the ‘book lady’ I began working with a lively and interesting group of women from my church who volunteer at the Thrift Store once a week in the upstairs area, unpacking boxes and sorting and cleaning and pricing items. During my time with them I have become something of a Christmas specialist.
Someone donated a twelve place setting of Christmas dinnerware this week.
You simply would not believe the amount of Christmas stuff that arrives at the Thrift Store each week. I organize and sort it and clean it and price it. I usually fill up four boxes or so a week with wrapping paper and wreaths, tree lights and tablecloths, candles and creches and cookie cutters. Then the boxes are taken down into the basement of the Thrift Store to be stored till Christmas.
By summer that pile in the basement is HUGE! Many of the items donated to our store come from the homes of older folks who are downsizing because they are leaving their houses to move to personal care homes or assisted living facilities. It is incredible how much Christmas stuff one person or family can amass in a lifetime. It makes me determined not to add to my own Christmas cache even though many of the items I am sorting and pricing are so………. nice and I am tempted to buy them.
My friend Marge with a kitchy wreath decorated with hand knitted stockings. I am continually unearthing ‘treasures’ like this.
My experience at the Thrift Store has made me much more cautious and careful about buying anything new. It has taught me that we don’t need half the things we buy and most of the things we do need to buy can be purchased at a Thrift Store for less than half the price……….. including Christmas stuff.
The Book Lady
The Magic of Tidying Up
Going On a Field Trip
I went on a field trip last week with a group of women from my church. We all volunteer at the Selkirk MCC Thrift Store together. Marj is our leader. Her weekly news reports via e-mail keep us in touch with each other. That way even if we miss a week of volunteering we still know what’s going on with the others in our group. In one of her newsletters Marj proposed a field trip. We all agreed it was a great idea. So last Wednesday we headed off on our little adventure.
First stop of course was another Thrift Shop. This one in Morris. A staff member who originally hailed from Newfoundland gladly took us ‘behind the scenes’ to get a better idea of how the place worked. We checked out their slick price marking system. And took note of how they organized things that came in as donations. We poked around the aisles looking for bargains and…. even tried on a mink stole that was for sale. Then it was time to head for the Jasmine Tea Room in Altona. We were in two different vehicles and each car took a bit of a detour through the town, since both drivers had Altona roots and wanted to show us sites that had been important to them when they had lived in Altona. Our lunch at the Jasmine Tea Room was delicious and since we finished eating a little early…… we headed off to Altona’s Gallery in the Park to wander among the sculptures there
Next we dropped in at the Altona Thrift Shop. It is of historical significance because it was the first MCC Thrift Shop in North America and was founded by four energetic and philanthropic women from Altona.
Altona residents Selma Loewen, Sara Stoesz, Susan Giesbrecht, and Linie Friesen started the first Thrift Shop in 1972 to raise funds for MCC’s work in developing countries.
The store staff was ever so nice to us and gave us a tour of their facilities. We marveled at the beautiful quilt room where material is saved and cut and sewn and stitched by many groups of volunteers. Then the quilts are displayed and sold.On the way home we made a stop in Neubergthal, a Canadian historic site where homes and other buildings, are maintained as they might have been in a traditional Mennonite village. Here we pose on the driveway of a home that belongs to fellow members at Bethel Mennonite Church.
After our Neubergthal stop we headed back to Winnipeg and said good-bye, but not for long since we will meet again next week on the second storey of the Selkirk Thrift Shop where once again we will be unpacking, organizing, cleaning, and pricing donated items. Of course we will also be chatting about our memorable field trip.
I’m A Shop Girl
The T-4’s Go Mennonite In Neubergthal
They came from all over Canada. A couple of weeks ago when I volunteered at the Mennonite Central Committee Thrift Shop on Selkirk Avenue we were inundated with two bus loads of visitors.
These were Thrift Shop administrators, volunteers, board members and executive members from other cities. They had come to Winnipeg for a conference called Embrace the Movement where they could share ideas about how to run thrift stores more effectively and efficiently and to receive information and inspiration from guest speakers. I talked with people from Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Ontario and other places in Manitoba. They were touring Manitoba Thrift Stores after spending a number of days attending workshops that addressed such things as recruiting volunteers, creating safe shopping and working environments, dealing peacefully and in restorative ways with shop lifters, quick merchandise turn around and handling conflict.
The people who came to tour were different ages, had many different professions and helped operate very different kinds of stores in places all over Canada. While visiting Manitoba thrift shops they were getting ideas for ways they might improve their own stores. Thrift shops accept donations of things people no longer want or need. They fix the items, clean them, price them and resell them.
Our visitors were very interested in the new signboard at the front of our store which tells the story of the four women from Altona, Manitoba who started the first Mennonite Central Committee Thrift Shop. There are now over a hundred stores in North America run primarily by volunteers. These stores have raised more than $167 million dollars to provide food, clothing, education, shelter, medical care and other services to needy people around the world.
At the Thrift Shop every donation and purchase is a gift to the world in two ways. It saves the world’s natural environment by reusing and recycling things and it saves people in the world who need help in difficult circumstances. It’s a movement that is certainly worth embracing.
Other posts about Thrift Shops……
I’m A Shop Girl and I Love It
Mother’s Day Kitsch
It’s the day after Mother’s Day and mothers are trying to find places to put the sweet little gifts they’ve received. Their hearts were touched by the sentiment the presents conveyed but what to do with all those cute knick knacks they get year after year? I was working at the Mennonite Central Committee Thrift Store on Selkirk Avenue in Winnipeg last week and Mother’s Day kitsch was flying off our shelves. I took some photos before it was all gone.
If Mothers were flowers I’d pick you
Mother’s Day Teddy Bears
A mother’s love makes all things bright and beautiful
Plaque for Mother’s Day
To one who bears the sweetest name
A Mother’s Day poem and Canada souvenir
What to do with your Mother’s Day kitsch? Bring some of your collection to the Thrift Store and we’ll sell it next year. Profits from our sales help to provide food, clothing, medical care and other services to needy people around the world. You’ll be helping others and have room left on your shelves for the new Mother’s Day kitsch that will be coming your way in just 364 days.
Other posts about the Thrift Shop……
I’m a Shop Girl and I Love It
Other posts about Mothers……
What Does Your Mother Do?
Thinking About Mothers At the Met