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Chemainus Thrift Shop realizes record proceeds in 2023

Health-related community organizations benefit greatly

Most people find it hard to fathom how a small thrift shop can sell quality items for a few dollars each and still make hundreds of thousands of dollars every year for health-related causes.

But that’s true of the Chemainus Health Care Auxiliary’s Thrift Shop that netted record contributions of $371,000 in 2023.

“That’s the most we have ever been able to donate,” said Susan Beaubier, a member of the 2023-24 executive who’s in charge of publicity. “We’re kind of proud of that.”

The total is more than $161,000 above the amount raised the previous year. It’s also $50,000 more than the best previous year, pointed out assistant manager Jade Blakney.

Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of volunteers, staff and the community, 16 different organizations benefited from the windfall, including: the B.C. Cancer Foundation (New Victoria Centre); B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation (mental health supports); Chemainus Harvest House Food Bank; Chemainus Health Care Centre; Chemainus Valley Historical Society; Cops For Cancer Tour de Rock; Cowichan District Hospital; Cowichan District Hospital Foundation; Cowichan Family Caregivers Support Society; Cowichan Therapeutic Riding Association; Cowichan Valley Hospice Society; Life On Wheels; Nourish Cowichan; Providence Farm; Victoria Heart House; and Victoria Hospitals Foundation.

The Thrift Shop got a bit derailed, like everything else, during COVID, but has obviously bounced back stronger than ever before.

There are a multitude of reasons why that’s been happening.

“I think the biggest factor is we used to not restock every day,” said Blakney. “There were days there were less staff on the floor to sell.

“Our big day would be Tuesday. We stocked on Sunday and Monday. Now we restock every day. The store is basically full all the time.”

There are still lineups outside before opening on Tuesday. That’s because the patrons miss visiting the shop after it’s been closed the previous two days.

But it now doesn’t matter when shoppers arrive, there’s always lots of merchandise available and it flies out the door continually.

“I really see the difference how busy the store is all the time,” said Beaubier.

“People got the idea only certain days were worth coming in,” Blakney conceded.

But since that’s no longer the case, the number of items sold on a daily basis continues to rise.

And the value is still there. Prices are beyond reasonable for very good clothing, household items and more.

“You can still get pants for two bucks,” noted Blakney.

That makes a huge difference for so many budget-conscious people amid rising prices just about everywhere for everything. The Thrift Shop offers a reprieve and people can get what they need without having to spend a fortune.

It’s clearly a sign of the times, but the Thrift Shop thrives on its mandate of ‘clean, cheap and friendly.’

“With a very good community, too,” offered Ian Hardy, the first male president of the organization.

Related story: Hardy first male president of Health Care Auxiliary

Another interesting fact is what goes around sometimes comes around again with the same item going through the store from donations and being sold again.

“The joke is people don’t just buy stuff here, they rent it,” chuckled Blakney.

The standard of organization at the Thrift Shop defies description. People don’t really see what goes on behind the scenes and don’t have access anyway, but it’s a fine-tuned operation in every aspect.

The upstairs storage rooms are immaculate. There’s even two rooms just for Christmas items and other seasonal merchandise is stored until special occasions come around. All the space is very well utilized and volunteers have each department perfectly proportioned for easy access and distribution.

“The systems the volunteers have set up and the cooperation they do to make everything flow is something to behold,” said Blakney.

Melody Primrose is the Thrift Shop manager, John Potts the maintenance manager and all the others who serve in various capacities on the executive provide the perfect direction for everything to run smoothly.

Volunteers are always still needed, however, for not just the Thrift Shop but Meals on Wheels and tea service that come under the auxiliary’s jurisdiction. Volunteer forms are available at the front desk.

“Anyone who wants to join our happy team, we’ve got space for you,” Blakney said.

The Thrift Shop offers employment experience to students at the high school and so much more branches out from the doors to the community. Blakney said not all donations received necessarily go through the store, but items are also offered to the Ladysmith homeless centre, Warmland in Duncan and the Salvation Army.

“None of our clothes go in the landfill,” she indicated. That’s obviously a huge benefit in this day and age.

Blakney has also put her expertise to use in the areas of the store where electronics such as cameras and stereo equipment need to be serviced or fixed.

For the safety of the volunteers, the installation of an elevator last year to replace the previous dumbwaiter was a big improvement after a woman was hurt trying to go between floors.

Everything is in place for the auxiliary to do just as well in 2024. But based on the COVID experience, “you never know what lies ahead,” said Hardy.

“While I remain confident that 2024 will also be another successful year, we need to be prepared for the unexpected, be it dramatic weather events or another public health scare.”

It’s already going to be a landmark year because the auxiliary, founded in 1899, is marking its 125th anniversary in September.

Don Bodger

About the Author: Don Bodger

I've been a part of the newspaper industry since 1980 when I began on a part-time basis covering sports for the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle.
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