When the ReSource Thrift Shop was established as a permanent fundraiser for King Christian School in the Holland Marsh, the idea was that it would be “100 percent” volunteer-based.
Donations from the community keep the shelves filled, and the store itself is staffed entirely by volunteers.
The volunteers sort through donations, set the prices, stock the shelves, man the cash – and in these days of COVID-19, sanitize the carts and change rooms regularly.
The thrift shop, located at 118 Holland St. East, first opened its doors on June 15, 2015, said Maria Wilcox, one of the founders.
The goal was to help ease the cost of Christian education, which receives no government funding. The money raised would go towards bursaries for the families of children attending the faith-based school – but the fundraising soon extended far beyond the school itself.
“Every charity in town we also support,” Wilcox said - from The Hub Youth Drop-in Centre operated by CrossTrainers, to the Helping Hand Food Bank and the local Blue Door Shelters.
It takes a lot of helping hands to operate the shop. Bradford’s ReSource Thrift Shop depends on a team of about 50, Wilcox explained. “Every single person is a volunteer. Not one paid employee.”
The shop was closed earlier this year, due to pandemic emergency regulations. It reopened on June 15 - its actual fifth anniversary - with precautions in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
On a Wednesday in June, shortly after reopening, a team of five volunteers kept the ReSource Thrift Shop open to the public.
At the front, Gwen Holtrop ensured that shoppers used the hand sanitizer, remembered to follow the directional arrows and practiced social distancing – and that no more than 15 shoppers were allowed inside at any one time.
She was inspired to volunteer at ReSource by “my mother and sister-in-law, who were already here.”
Holtrop volunteers only once a week “at the moment.” She explained: “I’m a farmer too, so I’m busy” – especially since the ongoing pandemic has created difficulty in getting the guest workers on which the family farm usually relies.
In the back, volunteers Marg Kooy, Matthy Dupin, and Marjory and Ron Carnegie were busy unpacking and sorting through donations.
Dupin has been volunteering at ReSource for just a year and a half, but Kooy has been involved for three years, Marjory and Ron for four.
They come in once a week, not only to sort but to help out in other ways – stocking the shelves, setting up displays or manning the cash.
“It almost depends on what’s needed. You pitch in and do it,” said Ron, who is also the ‘tech guy” – testing all donated electronics, to ensure that the items are working before they are offered for sale.
Kooy was persuaded to get involved by another volunteer at the store, but both Dupin and the Carnegies have a more personal reason for donating their time: they have grandchildren who attend King Christian School.
A large roster of volunteers is needed for ReSource to operate, especially now that COVID-19 precautions have to be followed. Not only are there rules to enforce, surrounding shoppers, any clothes that are tried on must be placed in a bin to be steamed, sanitized and left overnight, before being hung back on the racks.
Donations have to be left for three days before they can be handled – which means that ReSource Thrift Shop can only accept donations on Tuesdays and Fridays. Donors are asked not to drop off bags of items, but to bring their donations around to the back of the building, and knock on the rear door.
Not all of the volunteers returned when the doors reopened. With concerns about COVID-19, and the additional measures that must be taken, “they don’t feel comfortable coming back in,” said Kooy.
And with fewer volunteers available, ReSource Thrift Shop’s hours have had to change.
ReSource is now open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Fridays. It is closed on Thursdays and Sundays.
In addition to raising money for charity, and assisting King Christian School, there’s another reason that volunteers like Wednesday’s team step up. It's the shoppers themselves.
ReSource Thrift Shop is a reliable source of good quality, reasonably-priced clothing, furniture, housewares and other items, for customers on a restricted budget.
“They’re happy we’re open,” said Holtrop.
“So many townspeople have told us how much they appreciate us,” agreed Wilcox.
There are currently seven ReSource Thrift Shops in Ontario – sharing the name, but otherwise independently operated, all of them supporting their local Christian schools.
For more information on ReSource Thrift Shop, click here.