Basing an estimate off the fact that the average price for a baby onesie, a dinner plate or a glittery Christmas decoration at the Grand Forks Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Store is $2.50, the more than $2,500,000 that the volunteer-run shop has raised for the local hospital in the last two decades becomes all the more impressive.
The figures suggest that approximately one million items have found their way from the store’s back stoop, through the volunteer sorters onto the shelves and racks in the main shop and finally out the door again. With each tiny transaction, the auxiliary can feed its ability to supply the local hospital with the equipment it needs to serve the Boundary.
But perhaps even more staggering than the money raised is that those one million items sold represent only about two-thirds of what has gotten dropped off at the store since 2000. The rest, say volunteers, is garbage.
“Everybody has their perception of what’s good stuff,” said treasurer Jo Smart. “You might think this pot is good, but if there’s scratches, a little bit of rust or whatever – you can use it at home, but when you give it to somebody else – you really can’t sell it.”
A point of pride for the store is that no rejected fabric gets on a truck to a garbage dump. Rather, usable linens, knits and denims are redirected to either Penticton, where they may still be sent on to have a life with charitable organization Canadian Food for Children, or to Nelson, where the fabrics are ground up and used in insulation.
Even by rejecting one third of all donations, the volunteers at the thrift shop still have four storage lockers full of merchandize, as well as a sorting area nearly twice the size of the store behind the shop, where rugged shelves flex under moving boxes full of trinkets, electronics and clothing – all meticulously sorted and queued up to go on display for devoted shoppers.
“Our customers are pretty fussy,” said Meryl Monford, noting how the quality of their store’s items are up to scrutiny.
The thrift store’s customers are also loyal. It’s not uncommon to see a line wind from the door of the shop, south down the sidewalk of Second Street, on a Tuesday morning when items are new and the store’s been closed for a couple days.
“We’ve been very fortunate that we have our community’s support, so that we do have the money to give back to the to the hospital,” said Smart. “I really believe that if we didn’t do that, if we didn’t have this auxiliary, we wouldn’t have our hospital as equipment as it is.”
Whether its TV subscriptions for patients, iPads for doctors or X-ray plates ringing in around $65,000 each, the hospital auxiliary is prepared to step up and fulfill wish list items for the hospital.
“A lot of times the equipment isn’t very large because interior health will look after the MRI scanners and all that sort of stuff,” said Smart. “But it’s the small equipment that the doctors need.”
Sharon Kenessey justifies her 12 years of volunteering with the store as an investment in the future.
“We’re getting closer to the equipment we purchase,” Kenessey said.
“It’s my insurance against using the hospital,” Smart added. “More hours here, less at the hospital.”
The volunteers are also inviting others to join their make-shift fitness gym. Lugging boxes from storage units to shelves and racks, sometimes re-sorting familiar decorations.
“Halloween is really good,” said Smart. “Halloween, we collect all year long and then the very next day, on the first of November, we get it back.”
The same goes for Christmas, which fills a good portion of the auxiliary’s storage lockers and back shelves.
“Christmas is the gift that keeps on giving,” joked president Willy Triveri, remarking how there’s often a pile of boxes and a line of eager shoppers waiting for her to open the doors after the Christmas break. (Shoppers, if you’re wondering, the store re-opens on Jan. 7, 2020).