Since 1978, the Mennonite Central Committee Thrift Shop in Elmira has supported people in need both locally and abroad through sales of quality second hand goods.Sustained by donations and the tireless work of some 200 volunteers, the shop just closed out its most successful year to date.
With a special two-day sale March 30-31 – the store’s fiscal year-end – they topped $1 million dollars in sales for the year.
“In the past we had been close to that number, and so last year I sort of had ($1 million in sales) as a goal in my head,” manager Betty Marshall noted. “By the Christmas season, I thought that it was looking good and decided to put it out there as a goal amongst the volunteers.”
Setting a target is a good way to keep everybody excited and motivated, she explained. And it worked.
“It helps the volunteers understand how much what they are doing really matters,” Marshall said. “It made it exciting, because we weren’t sure if we would make it. And so we decided to hold a special sale at the end of the month and sure enough, by three o’clock on the last day we had tipped over the mark.”
From disaster relief, poverty reduction, through educational programs and refugee assistance, among other initiatives, the MCC is a major player in the international aid arena.
“Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), a worldwide ministry of Anabaptist churches, shares God’s love and compassion for all in the name of Christ by responding to basic human needs and working for peace and justice,” their website says. “MCC envisions communities worldwide in right relationship with God, one another and creation.”
Through direct donations, special events – like the New Hamburg relief sale – grain donations to its food bank, grants from the Canadian government and numerous thrift shops, MCC supports a variety of causes across the globe.
And with low overhead costs, the Elmira shop for example has just four paid employees and receives all of its product through donation, the margins are high.
Of the million dollars in sales at the Elmira store, some $600,000 will be used for charitable purposes.
As thrift shops continue to grow in popularity and to become increasingly mainstream – they aren’t just for low-income shoppers anymore, Marshall said – the Elmira location may need to up the ante for next year.
Volunteers are always welcome at the Elmira store, and the spring is a particularly busy time with an influx of clothing coming into the shop. Donations too, are greatly appreciated, though donors should keep in mind that the products will be sold and therefore need to be of quality and use. Of particular need is furniture and housewares.