The Ashcroft and District Health Care Auxiliary thrift store in Ashcroft (centre) has rented a storage container (r) to help them deal with an anticipated deluge of donations now that they have reopened. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

Health Care thrift store thinks outside the box for reopening

Anticipating a deluge of donations, volunteers had to find a place to safely store items

After being closed for almost three months, the Ashcroft and District Health Care Auxiliary thrift store has reopened, but regular customers, and those dropping off donations, will notice a few differences.

“The place looks amazing,” says Kitty Murray, president of the Auxiliary. “Sandra Desmarais was able to deep clean the store and strip and wax the floors.”

The members of the Auxiliary made the decision to close in March, and Murray says that they used the time while closed to sort through the donations that had already been received and make some changes. However, when the time came to talk about reopening they realized there were many challenges ahead.

Plexiglass had to be ordered for the store’s interior. A hand sanitizer dispenser had to be installed, and gloves and masks had to be ordered for the volunteers who work there: “It’s all an added expense.” Despite the precautions, Murray says that some of the volunteers have decided not to come back just yet, and instead are taking a “wait and see” approach. “They’re mostly 70 or older, and some have a few health issues, while others have family around them.”

The members spoke with the volunteers at Second Time Around, and the two stores decided to coordinate their reopening hours: the Health Care Auxiliary store will be open on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., while Second Time Around will open on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. “We had a nice meeting. And we all work together to support the community.”

With that settled, and all the necessary supplies ordered, the thrift store faced another challenge: what to do about, and with, the flood of donations they expected to receive after several weeks of being closed while many people spent their lockdown time cleaning house and setting aside items to donate.

Murray says that people were very good about not dropping off items while the store was closed, and says that some barriers erected by the Village crew helped. However, anticipating an influx of items that would need to be quarantined before they could be safely handled, sorted, and displayed, and with limited space in the store, the members knew they had to think outside the box: think about a box, in fact. A very large one.

“We had a lot of emails and Facebook comments about donations while we were closed, so we anticipated quite a rush,” says Murray.

In April she approached Ashcroft council, gave a presentation, and asked for permission to have a large storage container (seacan) installed at the site. Normally that would require a permit, but as the structure is only to be a temporary one that requirement was waived and permission was given later in the meeting.

“We were very fortunate as they agreed right away. Then it was time to find a storage container close by, as bringing one from Kamloops was going to be very expensive.”

Murray approached Steve Anderson at Ashcroft Home Hardware and asked about buying one, then re-selling it when they were finished with it. Instead, Anderson stepped up and said he would purchase and deliver the container, which the Auxiliary could rent for as long as they needed it, after which it would be placed in inventory at Home Hardware.

“We can’t thank Steve and Willow, and of course Andy Anderson, enough for their generosity during these difficult times,” says Murray. “And I also want to thank [Ashcroft Village foreman] Brian Bennewith and his crew for getting the site ready.”

Donated items will be placed inside the container for a minimum of 96 hours (four days) before being handled by the volunteers. While the container is out of the way at the back of the store, the area can become congested when the store is open. Anyone using the thrift store who is able should consider parking in the lot behind the arena rather than directly behind the store.

Customers will not need to wear a mask or gloves while using the shop, although that is suggested (customers will need to bring their own). There are several other new rules and guidelines in place.

“People need to stay six feet apart, only six people will be allowed in the shop at a time, and people can stay for a maximum of 15 minutes,” says Murray. Only customers who are shopping can come in; no children under 16 are allowed; the washrooms will be closed; and customers are asked to shop with their eyes first rather than handling merchandise.

Anyone dropping off donations is asked to have them in a bag or box for easier handling. Murray notes that there are a lot of restrictions about what the store can and cannot accept: almost anything to do with infants and toddlers, including clothing, is not allowed to be resold. The store also does not accept furniture, as even with the added storage space they do not have room.

Murray hopes that the container will only be needed for a short time, but that depends on whether or not there’s another round of COVID-19. “We’re hoping it will only be for three months.”

As for all the people eager to drop off their donations, Murray wants to thank them for holding back. “To all the fantastic people of Ashcroft and surrounding areas who held on to their donations: you are all awesome.”

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