In Manitoba, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Thrift shops are celebrating the people who give their time and talents on a regular – and sometimes daily – basis.
At annual general meetings and volunteer appreciation events, MCC Thrift will recognize volunteers as the backbone of MCC Thrift shops.
Volunteers like Jakob Hildebrandt whose first encounter with MCC was in Germany as a refugee who had fled Russia during the Second World War.
Shortly after the war, MCC distributed food, clothing and relief supplies across Germany. Hildebrandt and his family were among the refugees who received those supplies.
“We had nothing, we were refugees. The food and clothing provided to us was much appreciated,” says Hildebrandt. In the years immediately following the war, MCC helped Hildebrandt’s family secure private sponsorship to come and live in Winkler, Manitoba, in 1948.
“When I was in Germany, [MCC] came looking for refugees,” he says. “They helped us …and that stuck with me.”
Hildebrandt says the support he received from MCC as a teenager in Germany is
why he’s a volunteer at the Winkler MCC Community Thrift shop today.
Mainly Hildebrandt repairs small appliances like sewing machines and computers, but he also rebuilds and fixes bikes that are donated. He helps “wherever the need is.”
“I’m a handyman and I like repairing things,” he says, crediting his mother, a seamstress, who taught him about sewing machines. “MCC is a good place to use those skills.”
Photo provided by Winkler MCC Community Thrift Shop
In Manitoba, there are more than 1,800 volunteers supporting MCC Thrift shops like the one in Winkler. These volunteers are creative individuals who don’t shy away from a task – whether it’s refinishing a piece of furniture, repairing a used item or preparing an attractive shop display.
Because of these hardworking volunteers and dedicated shop managers and staff, MCC Thrift shops in Manitoba have seen gross annual sales rise from $6.6 million in 2014 to $8.3 million in 2017.
Thrift shops renovate to accommodate growth
Several shops have made necessary infrastructure improvements to accommodate this growth of sales, including expanding floor space for more donations, and consequently more shoppers.
The Winkler MCC Thrift shop has grown to take over six different retail spaces
in its more than 40 years of operation and recently renovated the original brick and metal façade to unite the space under one uniform look. Other shops in Manitoba have also undergone necessary renovations and infrastructure repair.
In 2016, the Altona MCC Gift and Thrift Shop completed a large-scale expansion which added 5,000 square feet to their building. The expansion allows for more large furniture items to be on display and added much-needed room for volunteers to sort, repair and price donated goods.
Last year, the Morris MCC Thrift Shop made necessary accessibility upgrades to its retail space, enabling customers to have a better shopping experience.
MCC Photo/Matthew Sawatzky
Renovations an important part of growth
MCC Manitoba's executive director Darryl Loewen says it’s important for MCC Thrift shops to renovate and maintain their buildings.
“We’re committed to seeing the thrift shop network grow,” says Loewen. “We are very understanding and supportive of these changes.”
MCC Thrift grew completely grassroots and today there are 16 shops in Manitoba that make up the MCC Thrift network.
“Thrift has been the backbone of MCC and is an integral part of our brand, the local face of our organization,” Loewen says.
“We’re grateful for the hundreds of volunteers and staff who give their time and talents."