It’s International Women’s Day today and it occurs to me that the thrift shop movement owes its existence to women. I once worked for Mennonite Central Committee, the relief, development and peace organization of the Mennonite and Brethren in Christ Churches in North America. One of the ways that MCC funds its international work is from money made by its hundreds of thrift shops – which are largely staffed by volunteers, most of which are women (although there are, indeed, men who also volunteer – better say that now before there is an outcry. )
This is from the MCC Thrift website:
In March of 1972, Linie Friesen, Selma Loewen, Susan Giesbrecht and Sara Stoesz (shown left to right above) opened the first MCC Thrift Shop in Altona, Manitoba with an expectation the project might last “three to six months.” The shop began to thrive and produced about $1,000. for MCC during the first six months of operation. More than forty years later, their vision for creative use of local clothing and household surpluses has grown to be a North American network of over 100 shops, producing income for the programs of Mennonite Central Committee – more than 16 million in the 2014/2015 fiscal year.
Not bad for a vision that was only supposed to last 6 months. The MCC thrift shops here in BC began a year later and for over 45 years have contributed millions of dollars to support MCC’s work around the world. These shops were also started by women.
I don’t know the detailed history is of other charity-based thrift shops but I do know that when I visit nearly any thrift shop, the majority of the people who are doing the work are women. (I also note that most of them are older – but I’m going to leave that thought for another blog post). So, when you hit a thrift shop today – or this month – thank the woman cleaning up the fitting room, hanging new stock, tidying the shelves, or working the till. Thank them for making a difference to the charity for which they volunteer. Thank them for helping to keep things out of the landfill. Thank them for creating spaces for volunteers. Thank them for helping us manage our budgets by offering affordable products.