Each morning, volunteers at FROM (Flat River Outreach Ministries) prepare to sort another day’s worth of donations for the Thrift Store. Large, colorful bins spread out along the concrete floor of the donation room hold the items as volunteers prepare them to go out on the shelves.
The donations from the Lowell community are a vital part of running the thrift store and FROM has been blessed to receive nearly 300 donations every week. These donations help stock the thrift store floor. They also generate needed funding for the mission of FROM, such as helping to fund the more than a dozen programs FROM offers the Greater Lowell Community throughout the year.
“We so appreciate the generous support from our community to keep Treasures Thrift Store stocked with quality items.” said Executive Director Wendie Preiss.
Unfortunately, among the hundreds of donations, many items are forced to be thrown out because they do not meet the guidelines of FROM’s donation policy, are broken, or damaged in a way they can’t be sold. The buildup of trash is a natural part of any thrift store’s operation, but in excessive amounts, it can be unsafe and costly to the store.
To help limit the amount of waste generated by the thrift store, we have a handful of tips to share. It is important to follow the guidelines posted on the FROM’s website or on the white sign hanging on the wall of the donation room.
Treasures Thrift Store Donation Tips:
Make sure your donations are clean and in good condition
Be sure to run any clothes through a washing machine and clean any other dirty items before dropping them off at FROM. FROM unfortunately does not have the ability to wash clothes, or clean and fix all items. This means that it is very important to donate items that are still in good condition. Dirty clothes, dishes and broken furniture are typically thrown away.
Make sure items are gently used
“It is important to make sure your items are gently used and in good condition,” Laura Bradeen, the former Thrift Store Manager, said. “We want to make sure we are providing quality items to our customers.” A good guideline before bringing your items in is whether they are in a condition in which you or a friend might purchase them. If the answer is no, it might be a good time to recycle the items, or turn clothing into rags to use around your house!
Package your donations well
Another tip is to package all your items neatly together, especially if your item has multiple parts. Volunteers sort hundreds of donations a week and keeping your donations packaged neatly can help the process, and also ensure nothing is broken. Carol Guyer, a volunteer who has spent countless hours sorting through donations points out the importance of packing the donations safely. “Make sure you keep your things together and pack them in a way that they will not break when they are handled. Especially when donating fragile items,” she said.
Follow the guidelines for what items are accepted
It is always important to be aware of the guidelines for what can be accepted. Information on these can be found on the website or in the donation room. Items such as electronics or damaged clothes cannot be accepted or resold. Additionally, electronics cost an extra charge to dispose of because they cannot be thrown away normally. FROM spent $600 on electronics alone in 2021.
Following these tips and guidelines is important. Donations that are not accepted often have to be thrown away, or many hours of time have to go into securing another location to send the items to. This also costs additional time and resources that would be put towards other FROM programs. Currently, volunteers say broken and unsellable items take up 12 large trash cans every day.
The cost to dispose of these items has also increased. Between January and July of 2021, FROM spent about $3,000 on trash removal services alone. Through that same time span in 2022, that number has raised to $3,500.
The consistent donations the thrift store has seen are greatly appreciated and Treasures Thrift Store would not be possible without them. Volunteers are excited every day to sort donated items to uncover new treasures for shoppers! We need help from everyone who donates to FROM to help lower the amount of waste generated by the store so we can direct more funds to further the mission of FROM.
“We want every customer to feel dignified and valued when they shop with us. We offer quality items that any of us would purchase,” Wendie Preiss said. “The store is essential in providing funding for programs and offering affordable and quality items to our community and it also brings dignity and value to each customer.”