Thrift Stores: Great Bargains for Great Causes
Shopping at non-profit thrift and resale stores is a Win-Win-Win. It stretches dollars, keeps useable items out of landfills, and benefits worthy causes. In our area, we’re lucky to have many such opportunities, with prices as low as a quarter and merchandise as varied as books and baby clothes, caulking guns and computers, shoes and chandeliers. And these are not the pokey, sometimes dusty thrift shops of yore, but thriving stores that sometimes rival local boutiques. One is even located in a historic house.
For this article, we invited the stores in Fayette and Coweta to tell us a little about the shopping experience and about the role of volunteers and donors. You can also find listings for stores in the Get Involved Guide section of each Volunteer. Use the same section for listings for the various non-profits supported by the stores. Many have also been featured in articles, which you can find by searching this website at www.volunteerpublishing.net.
Be sure to contact each store for complete details on hours, donation guidelines and drop-off, etc. And keep in mind that the inventory for thrift/resale stores can be less predictable than at for-profit retailers. But “the thrill of the hunt” is just part of the appeal for many shoppers!
CLOTHES LESS TRAVELED (Peachtree City)
Benefits multiple local groups
[Editor’s Note: See the Thrift/Resale Stores & Clothes Closets section on our Home Page for the article we published about Clothes Less Traveled in our March, 2010 issue.]
This store has been so successful that it’s expanded five times over the years. In addition to clothing in all sizes, household items, collectibles, and furniture, it’s noted for a large designer apparel section and well-categorized book section. There are discounts on selected items every Wednesday and Saturday and various seasonal promotions. Interested shoppers can sign up for email updates or check Facebook.
“We’re always looking for volunteers,” says Janet Dunn. “Folks tell us it’s a fun environment to work in and a satisfying way to help the community.” Particularly needed are people with good customer service skills, electronics testers, stockers, and those who can help load/unload donations, especially the larger items.
High on the want list for donations are clothing and household items (no major appliances, please). Some of the more unusual items that have ended up on the sales floor include an organ, a mounted deer head, and a golf cart. “Sometimes we get donations that leave us scratching our heads,” says Dunn with a smile, “so we hit the Inter-net to figure out just what they are.”
FAYETTE THRIFT SHOP (Fayetteville)
Benefits Promise Place & Fayette Youth Protection Homes
Marking its 21st year in September, this is one of the oldest thrift stores in the area and is also proud of its low prices. Shoppers can save even more at monthly clearance sales.
All staff are volunteers, and more help is needed, especially people who can work a three-hour shift. “Volunteers enjoy helping the community while forming friendships,” says Jennifer Barnes. “One volunteer, now 94 years old, has worked at the store since it opened.”
The store sells a variety of clothing and household items, books, etc.. Donations are needed, with quality clothing on the “most wanted” list.
These large stores carry merchandise like gently-used clothing, shoes, books, furniture, housewares, appliances, and electronics. The Fayette location, one of the area’s newest thrift stores, is operated by Goodwill Industries of North Georgia. The Newnan location is a part of Goodwill Industries of the Southern Rivers.
There are weekly discounts on designated categories. Volunteers are needed to organize a donation drive at their business or neighborhood. There are multiple locations for individuals to drop off items.
Carole Ann Fields of the Newnan store notes that the organization is proud of its “good prices and good brands.”
GRACELAND THRIFT STORE (Union City)
Benefits the Children’s Village at Christian City
The name here comes from “Mama Grace” Duke, a retired houseparent who wanted a way to hold a kind of ongoing “yard sale” to raise money for the children’s home. The store opened in 1984 and has since expanded several times.
The varied stock ranges from new and gently used men’s, women’s and children’s clothes (the store’s bestselling category, with used items starting at 25¢) to knicknacks, home electronics, and toys. There’s a saying at the store that “If you wait long enough, it will come through our doors.” The large book section has some of the lowest prices in the area.
Specials change daily, while there are several regular promotions. There’s a 25% discount on the purchase of 10 or more items each over $2.00. Senior citizens get 10% off. Graceland lets shoppers combine discounts, so in one example, a senior using the volume discount would save 35%.
Mark Odum, store director, says Graceland welcomes donations of “almost anything that’s saleable and in good condition,” items like clothing, baby supplies, computers, and TVs. Pickups can be arranged for large items like appliances and furniture.
Volunteers sort donations, serve as cashiers, and help with stocking, store organization, and pricing. “We welcome anyone willing to help, whether it’s only an hour a month or five days a week,” says Odum, who adds that there’s a particular need for those who can physically lift over 40 pounds or stand for several hours at a time.
“Graceland wouldn’t be possible without our hard-working volunteers,” he continues. “For example, Wolfgang turned down a paid position that would have reduced his schedule here. Ms. Shirley works in the sorting room, six days a week and at least five hours a day. We wouldn’t have a book department if it weren’t for Ms. Joyce. Some other volunteers can only come in a couple of times a week, but they’ve been doing it for over 20 years!”
Odum says volunteers are devoted to the Graceland mission, develop a sense of accomplishment, and enjoy the social side of their work — especially visiting around the table in the break room. “People bring in food, a potpourri of different foods from different homes and churches. People have fun working here.”
NEW BEGINNINGS (Newnan)
Benefits Community Welcome House
Open since 2005, this store offers low prices on a wide selection of items like books, designer clothes and purses, and gift items, with stock added daily. “You never know what you’ll find, from depression and carnival glass to sports memorabilia. There are often wonderful antiques for refinishing,” says Linda Kirkpatrick, Executive Director for Community Welcome House. Furniture is half-price from 1:00 – 3:00 pm on Saturdays, and once a month there’s a “fill a bag for $5.00” sale.
Some of the most-wanted donations are good used furniture and baby items. Pickups can be arranged for large donations.
Volunteers are needed, especially to help with sorting and keeping the store neat and organized. For example, “Carol Hunter has been volunteering with us for over three years,” notes Kirkpatrick. “She’s so dependable and brings her expertise as a previous owner of a thrift shop. Marta Lonza and her daughter Francis come at least three times a week, with warm smiles and ready hands for sorting donations.”
“It makes me feel good knowing I am helping to change lives,” says a typical volunteer. “Supporting a safe haven for women and children is really important.”
ONE ROOF RESALE HOUSE (Newnan)
This store, opened in 2007, has clothing and shoes for $1.00 every day. There are “$5.00 a bag” sales at the end of each season, running for about a week.
“We have clients who come on a regular basis,” notes Derenda Rowe, Executive Director, “and as they leave, we often hear them comparing notes, like ‘This is a Coach handbag and it was just a dollar’ or ‘I got five outfits for my child for $10.’ They are happy shoppers!”
Donations are always needed, particularly children’s clothes, adult plus sizes, and men’s shoes.
Among the devoted volunteers is Charlie Jean Wood. She’s been a volunteer since the store opened, and works almost every day. “She’s always ready with a hug or smile for everyone,” says Rowe. Volunteers are important, and more are needed. “We especially need people who can commit to at least one day a week. Organizing or retail skills would be a plus.”
“I like working to provide opportunities for people who have fallen on hard times, enabling them to purchase nice items within their means,” explains John, a volunteer. “In this economy, we can all use some help.” Another volunteer Terry says, “I like helping others. I enjoy the other volunteers. And I’ve been helped here myself.”
THE REAL LIFE STORE (Tyrone)
Benefits The Real Life Center
[Editor’s Note: See the Social Services section on our Home Page for the article we published about The Real Life Center and Store in our March, 2009 issue.]
This store, marking its fifth anniversary in December, sells a variety of gently-used (or occasionally new) items, including clothing, furniture, books, toys, housewares, and home decor. “Shoppers especially love our name-brand clothing and fabulous housewares,” reports Real Life Center Executive Director Cathy Berggren. “And something is always on sale!”
Clothing is rotated by tag color, with a different color on sale each month, and there are assorted additional promotions. Interested shoppers can sign up for a monthly e-newsletter or e-mail notices of sales, or check out Facebook.
Donations are always welcome, especially furniture in good condition and home decorations. Pickup is available for large items.
This is a store that inspires great loyalty. For example, there was a gentleman named Philip who used to live in the area. “He faithfully shopped with us and donated new items to us from a side business he had,” says Berggren. “He’s moved out of the area, but has continued to mail donations to us, at his own expense. He really appreciates what we do, and we’re very grateful to him.”
One volunteer explains, “It’s a joy to be able to help people who are in real need, and I’m honored to have a small part in supporting The Real Life Center by serving at the store. It’s wonderful, and as a bonus, there are fantastic volunteers and customers to work with.”
More volunteers are needed, particularly on Thursdays, Fridays, or Saturdays.
Benefits Newnan-Coweta Habitat for Humanity
[Editor’s Note: See the Housing section on our Home Page for the article we published about the ReStore in our March, 2011 issue.]
This 25,000 square-foot outlet store is best known for new and used furniture, appliances, cabinets, lighting, plumbing, building materials, etc., but also carries home furnishings, decorative items, and books. Many items are 30% – 50% below retail. Stock is replenished on a daily basis.
Contractors often bring in items from remodeling projects, and businesses drop off overstock. Some individual donors are do-it-yourselfers, while others are downsizing, purging garages, basements, or closets, or just generally weeding things out. Pickups are available by appointment for large donations.
The ReStore is proud to have diverted almost 700 tons from landfills since opening in 2005, both through store sales and the recycling of aluminum, metals, cardboard, cell phones, and ink cartridges.
“Our volunteers are essential, and they come from all walks of life,” explains Miranda Underhill, Volunteer Coordinator for Newnan-Coweta Habitat for Humanity. “We hold orientations and help every volunteer find the best ‘fit’ at the store.”
“Before you throw an item away, give us a call and we’ll let you know if we can salvage it to raise money for our mission,” says ReStore manager Sharon Hazel. “And remember, every dollar spent at the Newnan ReStore stays in Coweta County.”
SALVATION ARMY THRIFT STORE (Newnan)
Clothing for men, women, and children, shoes, accessories, furniture, books, household items, and wedding and prom dresses are available here. “Times are tough now, so we make sure our prices are very cheap,” says Stephanie May, Service Center Director. “We want to help everyone afford what they need and find some ‘treasures’ too.”
Among the sales and promotions are Senior Citizens Day on Wednesday (clothing is buy one, get one free) and the Color of the Week, with those tagged items at 99¢ for clothing and 50% off for household goods and shoes. The store especially welcomes donations of furniture, plus-size clothing, and household items.
Volunteers are needed to work in the store and the warehouse. “Employees and volunteers have a friendly rivalry to see who can sell the most, and they enjoy meeting the customers,” says May. One volunteer observes, “I work part time and coming here on my off days is very rewarding for me. I love volunteering for an organization that gives so much back to the community. And working here is a lot of fun.”
“Our store is very important for The Salvation Army, so we can help the needy in Coweta County,” May says.
SECOND CHANCE THRIFT STORE (Brooks)
Ministry of Brooks United Methodist Church, benefits multiple groups
This store, which marked its second anniversary this summer, has a unique ambience: it’s located in a charming 101-year-old house. “Everyone comments on the friendly atmosphere and how attractively everything is displayed,” says Lee Ann Trimble. “We have reasonable prices and a variety of quality offerings.”
Each weekend different items are discounted. There’s a frequent-shopper program and an email list. Several big sales are held throughout the year, when the store temporarily “relocates” to the church gym to provide enough space. In August there was a Thrift Shop Fashion Show as part of a fundraising luncheon.
Donations are always needed, especially jewelry and kitchen items. Pickups are available by prior arrangement.
The store also needs more volunteers. “We’re looking for people to help us sort donations on Mondays and to work in the store when it’s open on Fridays and Saturdays,” says Trimble. We welcome any interested volunteers — you don’t need to be a member of Brooks UMC.”
She continues, “Our volunteers love working together. We’ve developed wonderful friendships with each other and many of our shoppers. Our greatest joy is giving all our profits to help meet the needs of others. It makes our hard work not just fun, but so worthwhile.”
Benefits Southwest Christian Care
Although the two locations both opened in the fall of 2009, each has a different focus. The Newnan store is boutique-like and offers clothing from labels like Talbots, Coldwater Creek and Polo. The Hampton store is known for low prices and a large selection, from clothing racks with 50¢ specials to a furniture department.
Both stores have a frequent-buyer card ($5.00 off after $50.00 in purchases), and there are frequent sales. Daily updates are available on Facebook.
The Newnan store especially welcomes donations of children’s clothing, women’s designer-brand clothing, and small furniture items, while the Hampton store’s want-list includes men’s clothing, tools, and furniture. Call the Hampton store to inquire about pickups for either location.
There are many volunteers, but more are welcome. “At the Hampton store,” notes Cathy Carlton of Southwest Christian Care, “we are proud to have ten special-needs teen and adult volunteers. Each is a blessing and we are honored to have them.” Megan, a greeter, reports that she goes every Tuesday she can and enjoys the new friends she’s made. “Tuesdays are a fun day, and I appreciate the opportunity.”
A number of regular customers have gotten involved, and some volunteers are giving back after having been helped by Southwest Christian Care. One such observes, “My family member was in hospice, so I’m grateful to volunteer for such a wonderful organization.”