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How Thrift Stores Are Changing Communities


Oh sure, it’s always great to check in with the local thrift store to find some forgotten treasures or see if you can add to your collection inherited by your grandmother. Sometimes it’s a fun outing to grab a friend and a high-end coffee and then go score a great buy on a like-new pair of jeans or winter boots. But have you ever considered that the storefront that has the second-hand items in the window is actually a front for something else, something much bigger? These days thrift stores seem to be moving away from merely a way to make a buck off of someone else’s cast-offs into a solid and important part of local communities. Take a peek inside and see what’s being used, who’s being helped, and how the shop is quietly making a difference in your world.

Using What’s Inside

When you walk into the store, take a moment to really see what’s going on. You may find that there’s a family in there that just lost everything in a fire and the store owner is helping them to find what they need to make it through this terrible time. Watch and see how everything is going home with them as a gift, not a purchase! What about that woman who looks like she’s been living on the streets for a while? She has a pile of clothing in her arms and the man at the counter is filling out a form instead of ringing up the cash register. Often, you may find that the local thrift store is connected to a local community outreach. That partnership creates a way for the outreach to use vouchers for the less fortunate to take to these stores to get necessary items like coats and shoes. However, more times than not the employees themselves are adding to the voucher and ensuring the individual gets everything he needs.

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Using Local Resources

These are not the resources you are thinking of. No, the thrift store isn’t using the resources; it is putting the resources to work. A great way for a retail industry like a second-hand store to have a lot of manpower at a low cost is to tap into local resources that need the hours or the experience in trade for labor. They provide training and service fulfillment for all walks of including

  •          Local Volunteers
  •          Lonely People Who Want to Be a Part of Something Greater
  •          People With Barriers Seeking Experience For Future Jobs
  •          Required Community Service Hour Workers
  •          Senior Talent
  •          Voluntary Community Service Workers for School Credits

This amazing use of local talent helps the staff and provides help in the store. Additionally, word of mouth brings in more customers and more staff. It’s a perpetual cycle of continuous help in every direction.

Using the Space

Additionally, these thrift stores are beginning to act like community centers where locals can find resources for food banks, other clothing providers, housing, and even employment within the community. They provide space for outreach services for children, adults, and recovery efforts. These stores work closely with other community centers like the Sullivan Community Space to make a difference in every sector of the community that needs provisions, guidance, and training.

So the next time you go into a thrift store, take a few moments and look around. See how the items inside are saving lives and providing for families. Look at the people who are helping the customers, cleaning the store, and restocking the shelves and notice much they really love their jobs. Finally, find out what the store offers the community beyond a good price. You may be surprised to find a lot more treasure than you bargained for.

"You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want."