The thrift store is a victim of its own success.
When the Invermere Health Care Auxiliary Thrift Store moved locations a number of years ago, it made access easier for people dropping off donations. That meant more donations came in, which meant the thrift store could sell more and, consequently, donate more funds to the hospital as well as other nonprofit organizations.
Unfortunately, it also meant more comes into the store that is not sellable.
“We get broken stuff. Burnt stuff. Pans that still have food on them. Lots of people I think don’t realize we don’t have a washer and dryer, so they’ll just bring their clothes in dirty,” explains Sam Monfee, Invermere Health Care Auxiliary president.
The things that are no good for anyone when they are dropped off go straight into the dumpsters – the store has two dumpster pickups every week, with a third added this last summer because so much was garbage brought in.
But then there are the items in the store that have not sold after sitting on the racks for awhile. There are also clothes that are not exactly garbage, but not sellable either. Zippers that don’t work, stains that won’t come out and so on. Those categories of clothing are stuffed in clear plastic bags.
“Whatever isn’t going to be kept goes into recycle bags- whether it’s purses, clothes, shoes, whatever…,” describes volunteer Harald Kloos.
And every week, truck loads of these bags are brought down to Athalmer, where a giant 53-foot trailer sits waiting to be filled. The bags weigh an average of 20 pounds each, and there is on average more than 60 bags ready for transport each time. One day this past summer, Mr. Kloos counted 93 bags to bring down to the trailer.
“It takes a workout, because they want to fill the trailer, so they throw them up high,” Mr. Kloos describes. “You want to do Crossfit? Come down and do that!”
By the time a trailer is filled and ready to ship to Vancouver, it weighs a whopping 30,000 pounds. And these volunteers fill three to four trailers every year.
The trailers are owned by a company out of the Lower Mainland (Canam International Ltd.), which ships the material internationally for sorting into sellable clothing or turned into rags. The arrangement has worked well for the thrift store locally as there is no cost for the trailer, and it saves tons and tons of extra waste from going to the landfill every year.
With the volume of material recycled, the bags fill up a truck two times a week. Mr. Kloos says if they could find one or two more men or women to step up to help, it would greatly assist the existing volunteer crew. They can be flexible with dates and times.
The thrift store runs off an extraordinary number of volunteer hands – about 140 members and volunteers combined help to keep the thrift store operational.
“We have amazing volunteers,” says Ms. Monfee. She says with volunteers divided into departments, it becomes a real social time as everyone works together to sort and display the new wares coming in on a daily basis.
She speaks highly of the people who donate too, saying even though they have to send so much to the dump or the recycling trailer, most of what comes in is good.
“We get so much amazing stuff that, to me, it outweighs all the bad,” says Ms. Monfee.
This year alone, the thrift store has spent more than $124,000 on the Interior Health wish list, and $71,700 for community nonprofit groups and projects. Over the remainder of the year, they will likely donate another $200,000.
If you would like to volunteer with the recycle program, contact Harald Kloos at 250-342-3178. If you would like to volunteer at the thrift store, pop into the store to learn more.