That unwanted sweater, tennis racket or couch could make an impact on the local community if it is donated to the right thrift shop.
And that’s not just because someone in need could buy it at an affordable price.
Many local thrift stores use proceeds to support the missions of organizations in the tri-county area. Among them, one funds equipment for The Villages Regional Hospital, another supports an organization that helps victims of domestic violence and yet another helps fund the construction of affordable homes.
These thrift stores provide good bargains to shoppers, but residents who donate, volunteer and shop in the stores are making a difference in other ways.
Each store has different items and each cause is different, but leaders of the nonprofit shops all agree that building strong relationships within the community is important to success.
Pat Wesolowski volunteers with Ye Olde Thrift Shoppe in Lady Lake and is one of the founding members of the store. She said the people make the store special.
“The growth has been amazing, but so have the friendships I’ve developed with other volunteers and our customers,” Wesolowski said. “These relationships are so important to creating a place people want to shop. They have to feel welcome.”
Ye Olde Thrift Shoppe
The store opened in 2008 in Lady Lake to help fund The Villages Regional Hospital Auxiliary Foundation and ultimately, The Villages Regional Hospital.
It started with one small building, and anotherbuilding was purchased in 2015. The store expanded and added furniture to the long list of items it sells.
Dick Campbell, president of the foundation development team, expanded on the list of traits he thinks a store should have to be successful.
“There are numerous thrift stores in the area, so we have to be unique,” Campbell said. “The staff and volunteers look for ways to present the merchandise at its best. Nothing goes on the floor dirty. The store has to be inviting — both the way it looks and the volunteers who run it.”
It does not hurt that the store is now a stop on the Lake County bus route. That definitely brings in more people, Campbell said.
Dot Casleton, of the Village De La Vista, made her regular stop at the store Wednesday morning.
“I’m here for the books,” Casleton said. “I read about three books a week, and the books here are cheap. And the selection is great.”
She also has purchased furniture and linens in the past. Casleton credited the staff’s ability to showcase the merchandise and sell only the best for bringing her back to the store regularly.
Habitat for Humanity
The Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter ReStore in Wildwood is almost always busy. Either someone is dropping off donations or numerous customers are filling shopping baskets, said Shari Kuck, program coordinator.
“The donations and ultimately, the sales, help build homes for people in need,” she said.