Diana Mangold, manager of Churches Thrift Shop, talks about the day-to-day realities of this popular and busy operation. (Martha Wickett/Salmon Arm Observer)

Five semi-trailer loads of clothing head overseas from Salmon Arm thrift store

Churches Thrift Shop, with its mission to help the poor, processes tons of items

The total weight of items Churches Thrift Shop in Salmon Arm recycled last year rivaled the average mass of a blue whale, the world’s largest whale.

About 290,000 pounds or 131,000 kilograms of goods were recycled in 2018, which doesn’t include the many items sold by the store.

Diana Mangold, thrift shop manager, explains that some donations can be further recycled for revenue, while it costs money to dispose of others.

Last year five 54-foot trailers (semi-trailer size) were filled and sent to Cann-Amm Exports Inc in the Lower Mainland, which generated $22,600 for the thrift shop. That was an average of 30,200 pounds at $4,500 per trailer. Cann-Amm is part of an international used clothing business that will take clothing if it has minor issues like missing buttons or zippers or is older so isn’t selling, explains Mangold.

Also bringing in revenue last year – $540 – were 36 banana boxes of batteries, 36 of precious metals and 94 of cords and Christmas lights.

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On the expense side were goods that went to Planet Earth Recycling in West Kelowna: 119 bins of books (95,000 lbs), 94 bins of electrical (30,550 lbs) and 29 bins of metal (9,400 lbs). At $25 per bin, the cost was about $6,000.

The bill from Cheap Garbage, which gives the thrift shop a deal, Mangold says, totalled $16,900. It includes bin rental and tipping fee for garbage, as well as bin rental for cardboard recycling. The bill was an $11,000 reduction from 2017.

Last year 16 bins of paper recycling and 100 large plastic bags of plastic recycling also went to Bill’s Bottle Depot.

The thrift store is a non-profit, so if there ever is money above expenses, it goes to local benevolent organizations such as food banks or the women’s shelter. Its mission is to help people who are poor. It accepts grant applications from local charities.

“We haven’t had any money to give in the last couple of years, we got so far behind in (building) maintenance,” she explains, noting the board, made up of representatives of member churches, voted to raise prices a few years ago to make up the shortfall. “We would only raise enough to get finances on track but we didn’t want to get Value Village high.”

Churches employs about 30 staff, mostly part-time, and has a total of about 200 volunteers. At any given time there’s an average of 20 people working, a mix of staff and volunteers.

Read more: Cloth bags now available at Summerland thrift store

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The thrift shop can’t afford to wash clothes, but workers do wipe off spots or brush away hairs if they’re otherwise good.

“It’s so much nicer when they come in clean and we can just hang them,” Mangold says.

Workers are told not to reach into bags, but to empty them onto tables in order to avoid the sometimes presence of mice feces, dirty clothes or broken glass.

Clothes and other items move through the store quickly, helped out by bag sales and price reductions.

Some newer items are put aside for Christmas, when children can come in to get gifts to give to their families.

Line-ups before the doors open are pretty much a norm every day, Mangold says, but particularly following bag sale days when the racks are replenished.

Overall, Mangold is very grateful for all the support the store receives.

“We have so many good people who donate so many nice things and support us so much. Plus there are so many volunteers. It’s an awesome community to be in in most ways.”

At the moment, thrift store staff would be grateful for more shopping carts as well as some solid, double-sided clothing racks.


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