There’s a popular idiom that says “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, and according to Patti Larson, the president of the Revelstoke Hospital Auxiliary Society, there is a good deal of truth in that saying.
The Auxiliary Society operates the Thrift Store at 315 2nd Ave. where, for the past 17 years they have managed to find value in items that are no longer of any use to their original owners.
“We are so grateful to all the people who support us by donating clean, undamaged goods to the thrift store; items that still have value and are just looking for a new home,” said Larson.
Larson’s team of dedicated volunteers, some 25 regulars of the 100 members in total spend their days sorting through a mountain of bags and boxes; sorting, cleaning, and pricing items so they might be put on display in the decidedly eclectic collection of merchandise on the Thrift Store’s shelves. It’s an endless job, but one that volunteer and acting manager, Val Chamberlain, maintains is immensely rewarding.
“When you think about all the great things that are happening as a result of our work, it’s more than worth the time we put in,” said Chamberlain.
Last year the Thrift Store raised more than a quarter of a million dollars and those funds were distributed to nearly a dozen worthwhile causes in the community, including the Revelstoke Hospital Foundation, bursaries for three students to pursue post secondary education in health care, Community Connections Summer Camp, and equipment for the Queen Victoria Hospital.
But as successful as they are, the Thrift Store has an on-going problem.
It seems that, despite signage on the property asking for donations to be dropped off during business hours, and signs specifying the material the Thrift Store cannot use, some people just seem unable to grasp the message.
“We are not a garbage dump,” said Larson.
“For some reason, people insist on coming after hours and leaving items like broken furniture, soiled mattresses, old refrigerators or huge console TVs outside our doors. We even have signage saying we can’t use these items but they keep appearing regardless.”
Larson explained that, as much as they rely upon and appreciate the clean usable items that people donate, they are frustrated with the people who treat the Thrift Store parking lot as a landfill.
“What they may not realize is that we can’t use these things as they have no resale value. So for a lot of it, we end up putting it into our garbage bins for disposal. That costs us in terms of volunteer time, and it costs the charities because we then have to pay to have the stuff hauled away and disposed of. Dropping off broken furniture with us is like taking money out of the pockets of charitable causes.”
Larson said that her organization does their best to minimize those costs where possible by recycling what material they can and by sending some items to another charity in Revelstoke, Partners for Others, that ships some usable items to other parts of the world where they are desperately needed. Yet the problem of unusable materials remains a huge problem.
“We need to have our dumpsters emptied three times a week, and that costs a lot of money. If people would only consider that every dollar we spend disposing of things they should have taken to the dump themselves is a dollar that some charity doesn’t get. “
Sometimes, said Larson, one man’s garbage is just that…garbage.