January 22, 2017 | Song of Faith, Part Two, Luke 4: 16-22| Gladys Johnston –
In the spring of 1990,a year after this church was built, we had a Garage Sale . After it was over we discovered boxes and boxes of high end clothes that were never even unpacked, clothes that were given to us by the community to distribute as we saw fit. It was decided that a Thrift Shop, which recycled clothes at an affordable price, would be a good way to give back to the community. Jean Roberts and I spent the summer sorting , washing and having things cleaned. Jean talked a Dry Cleaners into giving us a deal to clean everything at $1.00 per article . The room we were able to use was a storage room with the Choir gowns and music at one end and a pool table at the other ,which the Youth Group used . In between were numerous other things . The room had a base coat of paint and a cement floor .That room is now two offices, the Library and a storage area.
We opened in September,1990 and were very surprised at the turnout ,as due to lack of funds, we had only used free advertising.Our beginnings were very humble because we didn’t have much in the way of display racks.Most of the clothes were in cardboard boxes on chairs and for shelving we had wooden apple boxes turned sideways and also made good use of the pool table. We did manage to find a few second hand racks later on and one of our congregation donated shelving from a former Dollar Store .Our cashiers wore aprons with pockets for change and added purchases by hand on scraps of paper .
We had no storage so Jean and I stored things in our homes until they were ready to sell. We often took bags of clothes home to wash and mark as well.We did eventually manage to get a grant from Presbytery,which is part of the wider church, to build a loft for storage above what used to be the Chapel .It certainly was well used .
We did a lot of recycling . Elastics,plastic and paper bags,hangers, paper clips,pens,pencils, bits and pieces of paper for adding merchandise, cardboard for tags ,and old laundry baskets for shopping . We even stapled price tags on garments until our customers complained they were getting caught in their nylons.
Our work area was in the same room as our selling area so on Thursday when the Shop was open we worked in the Sanctuary using the Communion Table .Later when we expanded into the Foyer , we had to move many things back and forth every Thursday .
In order for us to boost our donations,we visited all the Garage Sales in the area and asked for their left overs . One of the schools in the area had a twice yearly Good as New Sale and for a few years, we were able to get a couple of truck loads of good quality children’s clothes from them.Although by the time Nancy came 12 years ago, we had so many donations down the hallway that she had to find her way to her office every morning over bags and boxes.
We started out with just two of us but it wasn’t long before we had several dedicated volunteers from both the Church and the Community.
We were privileged to be part of some very important Community work programs.
It was a pleasure to have several students from the local schools, who were challenged, come with their workers for work experience.Their big smiles, of pure joy and absolute trust, when they came in the front door welcomed us rather than us welcoming them. We also had a couple from the Howe Sound adult program .We might have provided the environment for these students but they gave us the much greater gift of unconditional love.
We had a number regular school students from the local schools choose the Thrift Shop to do their volunteer community hours .They worked out very well
Several boys from the ESL Program at Capilano College came to do their required hours in an English work place . They were delightful and one of the boys came back every Thursday till the end of the school year to help us out .
We have had two girls needing to do Community Hours after getting on the wrong side of the law. One didn’t work out but the other lady managed to get her life together, started her own cleaning business and was able to support her family.
Several volunteers, after having a leave of absence from work,have joined us for a couple of months, as a transition period before returning into the work force .
At first our customers were local but soon they came from farther afield . Some were smart shoppers and others were smart and needy.Others came to talk as well as shop .
One lady was very grateful as she was able to buy her four children winter jackets. She said she couldn’t afford new ones and the year before she had tried to make them and they fell apart.
We had an elderly lady in a wheelchair who would come every Thursday for 2-3 hours. She had eleven children ,many grandchildren and several great grandchildren and they all came .She would pick up little things for them all and talked to a lot of people while she was doing this.She got cancer and had to have chemotherapy. Her first treatment was on a Thursday and she came to the Thrift Shop following the treatment .It’s where she wanted to be.
We were part of life changing situations.A couple of our customers were in abusive marriages. After opening up to us, they were able to find the courage to get help to get out of those situations.
One couple used to come every Thursday evening after work .They led a difficult life and said the Thrift Shop was their only bright spot in their week.
Another family from South Africa were frequent customers.They arrived in Canada with very little, including money.What they were able to purchase at the Thrift Shop helped them to survive.They moved to Alberta and about five years later the mother and daughter came to visit us. They were on their way to South Africa for a vacation and they had a seven hour stop over in Vancouver on a Thursday.Since the Thrift Shop was the only place they wanted to visit in Vancouver, they took a bus all the way from the airport.This was before Sky Train.They told us they would never forget the care and compassion that the Thrift Shop volunteers showed them when they were new to our country .
Of course we made a bit of money and donated a percentage to First United Church in the downtown eastside, but making money was never our priority.
Anyone who knows me, knows the passion I have for the Thrift Shop . Thank you to those who are continuing the work of the Thrift Shop .
I believe, as Jesus taught us, that a most important aspect of our Christian Faith is service to others . Our Faith needs to be lived seven days a week and the outreach the Thrift Shop provides is a direct expression of our Christian Faith.
Our Mission statement expresses it best.
MSUC Thrift Shop is much more than a place providing good quality household items, toys, and clothing at affordable prices . The Thrift Shop is also a place to nurture the spirit . It is a growing community outreach of extraordinary people willing to share their knowledge and time . These people support our neighbours from far and wide ensuring all are welcome in this place.