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
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