EAGLE COUNTY — Phil Carter points to a wall of garbage bags piled all the way up to the ceiling and spilling forward toward the entrance.
“Those are just from the last couple days,” said the Thrifty Shop manager. “We sort donations all day getting things hung and tagged. We have three to four people working on it throughout the day and it’s an all-day job.”
He looks out on the floor of the Edwards Thrifty Shop as workers busily arrange, tag and change displays in preparation for opening. Donations from all over the county are constantly pouring into the two shop locations (the other is in Eagle). In fact, when the store opens on Monday, the front of the shop is usually lined with drop-off donations. Usually the shop’s free pick-up service has eight to 10 stops scheduled per day.
Most Eagle County residents are familiar with this end of the process, whether they’ve donated old clothes and garage sale leftovers to the shops, or if they’ve stepped through the doors to look for a bargain. What many may not be familiar with is the process that happens once your donated goods hit the sales floor.
According to Carter, goods that the Thrifty Shop thinks will sell go on the sales floor for about six weeks. If they haven’t sold in a month, then they go to 50 percent off for a week, and then drop to 75 percent off for a week.
After that, everything that doesn’t sell, along with items that didn’t make the sales floor to begin with, gets packed into trucks and shipped to the Front Range to Arc thrift stores. The stores are in several locations and are among the largest employers of people with disabilities in Colorado.
“Everything donated gets a shot at being sold either here or somewhere in the state,” Carter said.
But sometimes Arc is unable to sell those donated items and the lifecycle continues. Arc’s non-sellable items are bundled and placed on ocean freighters bound for third world countries across the globe, where they help create work and income, and where they’ll be re-used and re-purposed. For example, a shoe without a mate tossed into the pile up in Edwards might be used as fabric to create a handmade purse in a developing country, which can then be sold.
Carter emphasizes that almost anything can be donated, regardless of condition. There are truly few exceptions. The Thrifty Shop doesn’t accept firearms or anything that could potentially be dangerous, such as knives. They also don’t accept car seats and TVs. They accept mattresses and all clothes, even items people might not think of as sellable, such as undergarments or mismatched shoes.
Nonprofit Vail Valley Cares, which runs the local Thrifty shops, also point out that items purchased at the stores keep on giving as well.
Proceeds from the Edwards and Eagle stores go toward the nonprofit’s grant program. This year, 25 grants totaling $250,000 were given to valley-based charities, as well as five college scholarships totaling $10,000.
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.