Jean Elliott’s mind is filled with tales from the thrift shop.
She’s managed it for nearly 29 of its 30 years.
“It’s a reason to get up in the morning,” she said with a chuckle.
“It was the dream of Dena Wishart,” Elliot explained. Wishart brought the idea back from Hawaii and opened the first small incarnation of the Oak Bay United Church thrift shop in September 1982.
“It started out small – six or eight ladies – and it was small transactions,” Elliott explained.
A few years ago they added the annex and now have two sites filled with furniture, jewelry and everything in between. About 30 volunteers – the oldest is 94 – work the weekly shop that is open each Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. September through June. They also open the first Saturday of the month 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
“There isn’t anything you couldn’t find here,” said June Carter, who manages the jewelry section of the operation that celebrates 30 years this September.
“Besides selling, we do a lot of fellowship and outreach. We have people who come every Friday,” Elliott said.
That’s part of where her tales come in. From widows seeking an inexpensive pretty thing to brighten a day – with a hug on the side – to youngsters seeking a cheap suit for an important job interview, they’ve seen it all. The volunteers provide an ear to those boasting new babies or grandbabies, or lamenting a loss.
“It just happens because we see the same people all the time,” Carter said. “The thing that rises to the top is how happy people are when they leave here. They come for a hug. One man comes and offers me a toonie just for a smile.”
Donations come in through word of mouth and funds raised go back to the church.
Oddities dropped off over the years include a fur-lined bedpan and a teeny black object that turned out to be a mosquito trap.
“Customers have helped with the renovations,” Elliott said, of the 17-year project to renew the Oak Bay United Church. The renovations, completed a few years ago, added space for the shop as well. Now they fill the annex, boutique and on nice days spill out into the parking lot.
At opening time, “I have to stand well back,” Elliott chuckled.
The shop at 1355 Mitchell St. reopened Sept. 7. The 30th anniversary celebration, including cake and perhaps a tale or two for guests, is Sept. 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
A place for everything
Stuff that stays on the shelves, doesn’t. The Oak Bay United Church Thrift Shop regularly donates to the Compassionate Warehouse and a local women’s transition house.
“Every week we send bags of clothes to Our Place,” said Jean Elliott, the shop manager.
“Things that don’t sell well, we find a home for them,” agreed volunteer June Carter.