Photo caption: Dan Horne and Shannon Neufeld from Living Bible Explorers are holding two items of the many that were given to children and their families at the ministry's drop-in program. Six boxes of toys, games and decorations were donated by the Sargent MCC Thrift Shop as part of their Build-a-Basket campaign. MCC photo/Ruth Jantz.
As COVID-19 restrictions have constantly changed over the past few months, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Thrift shops have had to adapt and devise new ways to assist their communities in these tough times.
“It’s been a challenge,” said Jason Hiebert, executive director of the Steinbach MCC Community Assistance Centre, who has been involved with MCC for five years now. His shop, like the rest of the MCC Thrift shops throughout Manitoba, have spent much of the year pivoting as provincial health guidelines forced them to close, reopen, close again, and finally reopen one last time before the end of 2020.
Although the temporary closures gave shops like Hiebert’s a chance to renovate, paint and clean every nook and cranny, it was difficult to be closed to the public, especially when Thrift shops were still getting requests for crucial items like winter gear. The Steinbach MCC Thrift Shop, as well as many others have been careful to take care of needs in the community without breaking protocol.
MCC photo/Jason Hiebert
Hiebert has been finding new ways to help the community by organizing online purchases and curbside pickups at the Steinbach MCC Thrift Shop. Special requests from the community have included providing winter clothing or hygiene items for community members in need and offering care packages that include toys, games, colouring books and school supplies for families during Christmas. The shop even relieved another local organization of an overwhelming response in donations that included used clothing and toiletries.
“We are missing the community and relationships,” said Hiebert, reflecting on how quiet the shop has been since the beginning of COVID-19. Amidst the challenges, Hiebert said they are doing the best they can to be flexible during this time of uncertainty.
Thrift is essential
Thrift shops are often known for good deals and excellent finds, but they are also essential for many families who don’t have access to items that others may take for granted.
“A lot of our shoppers, our walk-up shoppers, don’t have vehicles or they don’t have access to vehicles, and they’re not doing online shopping or they might not have a credit card,” said Karl Langelotz, the manager at the Selkirk Ave. MCC Thrift Shop.
MCC photo/Karl Langelotz
Many of the Thrift shop’s customers have been shopping there for more than 20 years. “We really value those connections. What we do here is connected to the immediate community not just to people who are coming in and browsing and looking for deals. It’s people that are being served,” said Langelotz.
Bringing hope to many this Christmas
Thanks to an anonymous donation of $100, the Selkirk Ave. MCC Thrift Shop was able to donate children’s holiday gifts including gently used toys, stuffed animals and dolls to local charities in the Winnipeg area.
Throughout the year, Mary Dueck, a longtime volunteer at the Selkirk Ave. Thrift Shop, has been setting aside special dolls and toys to be used as holiday gifts. “[At Christmas] the parents can come in and feel like they’ve got a really nice gift,” she said, adding that this is very important for families at this time of year.
MCC photo/Mary Dueck
Volunteers at the Sargent MCC Thrift Shop were also able to answer the call to help those in need of warmth this winter.
After experiencing the SARS pandemic during her previous 20 years of nursing, Ruth Jantz, manager of the Sargent MCC Thrift Shop, knew this pandemic wasn’t going to be over quickly. As inventory grew and signs of winter loomed overhead, she thought of a small internal campaign called “Coats for COVID”.
“I thought, why don’t we see if we can get some donations…and then we will give some of this stuff away on behalf of other people,” she said. Jantz asked her many volunteers to consider sponsoring winter items that would then be donated to people in need.
Altogether, volunteers raised over $3,000 amongst their team. “We gave away tons and tons of jackets and coats…scarves, mittens, hats, ski pants, to about 11 or 12 different places,” said Jantz.
Through their campaign, the Thrift shop volunteers were able to help many families through a vast network of non-profits in the area including West Central Women’s Resource Centre, St. Matthews/Maryland Community Ministry, Sunshine House Drop-In Centre and many others. The shop also put on a smaller community-led fundraiser called Build-a-Basket. Over $200 of toys, games and decorations were donated to local organizations through this initiative.
MCC photo/Ruth Jantz
“We like to have a good relationship with other organizations in the area,” said Jantz. By working together, the network of community organizations can meet different needs and reach more families in need of assistance.
MCC Thrift shops are now reopening
Many of MCC Thrift shops in Manitoba are now able to reopen. Because online shopping and curbside pickup isn’t an option for everyone, MCC Thrift is thrilled to be able to continue supporting our local communities with affordable items. To find out which shops are open in some capacity, visit the website for more details on shop hours.