HEALTHY BUSINESS  Invermere Health Care Auxiliary Thrift Shop volunteers are as happy with the stores new location as the public. Sales have escalated since the Thrift Shop opened its doors at the new location on 7th Avenue. Photo by Erin Knutson

HEALTHY BUSINESS Invermere Health Care Auxiliary Thrift Shop volunteers are as happy with the stores new location as the public. Sales have escalated since the Thrift Shop opened its doors at the new location on 7th Avenue. Photo by Erin Knutson

By Erin Knutson

Special to The Pioneer

The new location of Invermeres very own state-of-the-art Health Care Auxiliary Thrift Shop promises an adventure for all curious vintage connoisseurs and its myriad of hard-working volunteers, while making various charitable donations to some important organizations.

The word on the street is that the new location is beautifully organized, easily accessible and the product is top notch. And according to anonymous shoppers, the items at the store are better than at other second-hand locations, and donating goods is a great way to justify adding to their closets and household goods.

Our thrift store is known for the standard of quality of our products, said Thrift Shop treasurer Marion Labrie.

According to Ms. Labrie, the stores volunteers research other thrift shop models, and attend conventions.

We have people from other thrift stores and from other communities tell us we have one of the nicest stores and quality of products, she said.

Sales generated from the new location have escalated, creating an awareness of the potential for extensive future donations.

Mostly we buy medical equipment for the hospitals, Ms. Labrie said. We give various types of donations to the food bank, the Family Resource Centre, and the East Kootenay Foundation for Health. In the past 14 years, weve donated $35,000 for scholarships and bursaries for post-secondary education and high school scholarships and we donated $25,000 last year to STARS Air Ambulance.

In total, since 2001, the thrifty sensation has donated a grand total of $1,301,893 to the community for the maintenance and preservation of its medical needs. The continual growth of the operation, which started in 1977 when the Invermere Hospital Auxiliary first opened its doors, has created a strong foundation of support for needed services, while procuring the funds to become self-sufficient.

We opened at the end of November, purchased the space, and did some renovations. Weve done a lot of renovations because we wanted to do it before we moved in. Basically, what we wanted was flexibility within the store to move things around and to change as they need change, Ms. Labrie told The Pioneer.

The established gem provides a valuable service to the community in that it allows items to cycle through the valley, protecting goods from simply being thrown out.

Our perspective is that were becoming more conscious of our social and environmental obligations and our conscience is doing better. Were saving money in garbage fees and were actually going to have a bit of an income, she said. Sometimes, we have an abundance of inventory and if it doesnt sell, it can end up that we are using a high level of garbage expenses, so our expenses were very high and we were sending stuff to the landfill.

The thrift store has just started an innovative recycling program to deal with this problem with help from a waste removal partner based in Vancouver, it looks like a sure bet. CanAm Exports will now remove all the items cycled out the back door, including clothing, shoes, bags and linens.

The District of Invermere has graciously offered a spot down in the industrial park for a 53-foot trailer at no expense to us, added Ms. Labrie.

The export company will be paying ten cents per pound for everything that ends up in its care.

Its a private company; its not a non-profit (and) theyve been doing this for 20 years. Everything that is taken to their main warehouse near a shipping area is then sent to India, Africa and then redistributed in different ways theyre a middleman, theyre making money, someone else is making money and the new user is happy to get this stuff.

Invermere is the farthest that CanAm Exports will be trucking to.

We are sort of an experimental project, Ms. Labrie said. We want to be able to give it a try. Shipping should begin later in January and an incubation period will begin.

She cautions that special care needs to be taken when dropping items off at the back door. Anything that is obviously beyond use, torn or worn out should be discarded, as an excess of unusable products creates a much bigger work load for volunteers.

We dont have a washing facility, so if it doesnt meet standard we have to throw it out.

Also, items like televisions and large furniture will not be accepted. Its just too big for us to handle theres a great recycling place in Athalmer, but our volunteers, many of whom are elderly and retired citizens cannot lift that stuff.

At this point we pretty much have all the volunteers we need, said Ms. Labrie. But now that we have our own facility, there is maintenance and with our recycle program were hoping to engage some able bodied men for occasional repairs and to assist us in taking the recycle stuff down to the trailer, which might entail a couple of hours two days a week. If people are interested there is always a call for help with logistics around the store. We are not exclusive to women and are happy to have men.

One of the new benefits of the new store is that it is wheelchair and handicapped accessible. And volunteers appreciate the interior space for sorting through donations. At the other site, volunteers were having to sort outside, sometimes in sub-zero temperatures.

Its really different, said thrift store volunteer Gloria Shale. I think its a wonderful place and were very lucky to have it. I love working here and meeting people you always meet people here.

The volunteers are treated really well and receive good perks, coffee, and can chat as much as they want, according to Ms. Shale.

I love to socialize and Ive gotten to know a lot of people in the five years that Ive been here, she said. Its hard work. Stocking and packing are a big job and people are really thankful for it. It keeps the hospital going and its really great that all the money stays in the valley.