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Nonprofits: There’s growing value in thrift stores

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

If there is a growth industry in Georgetown County, it’s the nonprofit re-sale shop.

Christine Cribb, resource development director, says customers can’t find a parking space after 11 a.m. at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore at Merriman Road and Hampton Court in Georgetown. They want to be there when the donations are unloaded and put on display.

Habitat for Humanity, which builds affordable houses for qualifying families, is one of a number of non-profit organizations turning “gently used” donated items into funds to supplement operations. “It’s building a house without lifting a hammer,” says Annette Perreault, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Georgetown County.

There’s a huge recliner in the foyer at the Salvation Army’s Family Store on Highway 17 in North Litchfield. The price tag says $139.95. The big chair is a bit out of the ordinary for the Salvation Army’s Litchfield shop. Jackie O’Leary, store manager, says clothing is her top seller. It has a designer showroom with name brand goods and even a few wedding dresses for sale. There are also rooms for golf apparel, shoes, children’s clothing and books and media. There is one item O’Leary can’t keep in the store: artificial Christmas trees.

With stores in North Litchfield and Georgetown, the Salvation Army raises enough money to assist over 8,000 people a year, O’Leary said. Utility and rent assistance is available to qualifying families. Those losing their possessions in a fire are also helped. After-school programs and summer camp trips are funded from the stores’ profits, and the Salvation Army is a partner with Toys for Tots and a food pantry that provided 300 Thanksgiving dinners last week.

Manager Barriedel Llorens at the Tidelands Hospice Resale Store in the Winyah Village Shopping Center off North Fraser Street in Georgetown says a book club’s members gather there about once a month to look over the donations. She says the store is a gathering place for members of the community as well as people who have lost loved ones.

Habitat for Humanity has its own truck to pick up items anywhere in Georgetown County five days a week. The crew brings in 25 to 30 loads weekly.

Habitat operated its store just 12 hours a week when it opened in 2003. Now it’s open 35 hours weekly: Monday-Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Perreault says Habitat accepts furniture, appliances and housewares in good condition. “Items are required to be in good condition and working order so that they can be resold to help build homes for families in need,” she said.

Though Habitat doesn’t take clothing or baby furniture, there’s no limit otherwise on what might show up at the store. It has accepted donations of a van, a sailboat and a motorboat. Look for practically new exercise equipment by early spring, Cribb said.

Habitat has set aside a room it calls “Chic As Can Be” for furniture that volunteers have repainted or touched up. Cribb says it promotes a “shabby, chic” look, but there are always surprises like a wooden chair bearing a Harvard University symbol.

Donations come in at a surprising rate. “With the collapse of the economy,” said employee Angela Kollet, “everybody is a little more aware of the need.”

Used clothing and housewares are the Tidelands Hospice store’s niche. Llorens says the store also takes shoes, accessories, books and furniture. It doesn’t accept used medical equipment and steers donated appliances to Habitat for Humanity.

“The shop has become a meeting place for people in the community,” Llorens said. “They come to visit the volunteers and their friends as much as to shop.” One regular visitor who started walking to the store said she lost enough weight to go from a size 20 to a 14.

Families of hospice patients feel comfortable donating their loved ones’ clothing and possessions to the store upon their deaths. Family members of potential hospice patients visit the store to learn more about services without having to make a commitment. It’s a welcoming place, Llorens said.

“I had one customer come in two or three times a day,” she said. “She had lost her son and mother. When she had a bad spell, we made her feel better.”

St. Christopher’s Children will open re-sale store

By James Williamson
Coastal Observer

A nonprofit better known for giving clothes to kids in need is going to start selling clothes for adults. St. Christopher’s Children is due to open its Upscale Resale Store this month across the hall from Applewood House of Pancakes in Litchfield Exchange.

With the help of Posh Living, the 1,600-square-foot freshly painted room has come together with new carpet, racks and a few boxes of clothes. “I’ve dreamed of doing a resale store for six years,” said Beverly Dougherty, a board member. “With so many charities around we wanted to generate income with a different method.”

She doesn’t see it as competition for other stores. “Consignments feed off one another rather than compete,” said Dougherty.

The Upscale Resale Store will depend on quality donations “J. Crew, Banana Republic, kind of like a resale boutique,” Dougherty said. It will also have accessories and home decor.

The organization has traditionally distributed kids’ clothes through schools and service agencies. While the Upscale Resale Store will sell clothes for men and women, donations of children’s clothes will be given to kids in need.

“We’ll turn the profit we make into what we do,” said Ron Gilbert, president of St. Christopher’s Children. The nonprofit has handled over 1,600 requests for clothing this year and 140 requests for medical care.

The store will open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for donations.

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