COLUMN: 10 years of social enterprise at Crossroads thrift shop
This August, the Crossroads Hospice Society (CHS) thrift store marks 10 years in operation and it’s a significant milestone. Year after year, it is an important source of support for the society’s work. The thrift store success builds on a unique and satisfying community-oriented operational model.
The 10-year anniversary is a good time to reflect on the success factors, consider the tremendous benefits and thank the many volunteers and supporters who have made it all possible.
Thrift stores can be messy businesses. The premises are selected and operated to minimize overheads. There are the weekend and midnight “donations” that are left spilling out on parking lots. There are the challenges of sorting and dealing with a huge diversity of items in various conditions. And in the Tri-Cities, the thrift store market is competitive, including commercial operations.
So why does Crossroads run a thrift store? The reason is rooted in the mission.
CHS aims to provide compassionate support for patients and their families who are affected by the end-of-life experience. One of the many hard parts about losing someone you love is how to manage what they’ve left behind. The thrift store helps make these decisions a little easier.
We provide a destination for clothing and other small items. We treat both the items and the people bringing them in with care and respect. And we endeavour to put suitable donations to good use by providing support to organizations such as the Downtown Eastside Women’s group, Doctors Without Borders and to local churches assisting the homeless. And of course, many donated items become available to others through purchase in the store.
Money generated by CHS thrift store sales goes directly to our 10-bed hospice at Inlet Centre in Port Moody. The revenue supports grieving families, provides comfort measures in the hospice and trains our visiting volunteers. We use it to educate our community about hospice care and its benefits.
The CHS thrift store also works collectively with other hospice thrift stores to raise awareness about hospice services. Not everyone knows about hospice and the option it provides. For many, the thrift store is the front door to learning about hospice services; for others who have lost a loved one in hospice, it can provide a meaningful volunteer experience.
The store sales operation is a model for two of the environmental R’s: reuse and recycle. Instead of going to the landfill, our plethora of useful and beautiful donations is reused in the community at bargain prices. Whatever can’t be sold, such as metals and obsolete electronics, are recycled.
It provides an alternative shopping experience for the community — the chance to give and get at the same time.
The revenue generated also allows CHS to minimize its active direct fundraising efforts in the Tri-Cities, recognizing that there are limited community resources and many worthwhile “asks.”
The CHS thrift store success would not be possible without volunteers. Close to 80 volunteers bring their time, passion and hard work to our storefront. Volunteering is invaluable for the store operation and CHS extends its heartfelt thanks. Through their activities, our volunteers also develop a sense of value and purpose for their effort, meet new friends, learn new skills and share their expertise. And we appreciate employers who donate funds in proportion to the volunteer contributions of their former staff.
The Crossroads Hospice thrift store is looking ahead to offering a broader range of services. A “declutter and downsize” initiative is under consideration to assist people with these sometimes challenging processes. We know other communities have embraced such a service and we expect it would be welcomed if we were to offer it here.
If, as Wikipedia defines, “a social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being,” the Crossroads Hospice thrift store, we believe, delivers admirably.
Happy 10th birthday to the Crossroads Hospice thrift store. All are welcome to visit the store at 2780 Barnet Hwy. in Coquitlam.
Jill Cook is executive director of Crossroads Hospice Society.