By Patricia Jones, Task Force on Poverty
Where can you buy nice clothes because you have a job interview? Or a set of dishes because you and your partner split up? Or if you need everything because you had a house fire? You could head to the Mission Store at 203/205 Box Butte or the Collection Basket at 903 Big Horn. Both stores have a large collection of clothing and household goods - whatever has been donated from people in our area. They are a tremendous asset for low-income people, providing good quality, gently used items at a low price.
Alliance has had two thrift stores since the 1970’s, and both have moved and expanded since they were founded. Karla Yeager said the Collection Basket was originally housed in the basement of St. Agnes Academy, and the donations they received were primarily distributed to migrant families and others in need. Reva Fielding talked about the Mission Store. She said the Indian Mission Church operated a store on South Potash for about thirty years, serving Native American families and hundreds of other people. In 2003 the store moved, first to Flack, then to its present location on Box Butte Avenue.
The customers who patronize the thrift stores have changed over the last fifty years. They come from all walks of life. Many are from impoverished families, many are drop-ins looking for an item for a specific event. There are also lots of treasure hunters looking for unusual items, and there is a good chance they’ll find something wonderful.
Each store has about thirty active volunteers who sort, price, and sell merchandise. Hundreds of items are dropped off each week; some have to be discarded because there is no demand for that type of item, or the item’s condition wouldn’t allow it to be resold. Food items are sent to the Indian Mission Church of God or the food pantry for distribution or thrown away if they are out of date.
After a length of time, each store clears out inventory. The Collection Basket takes unsold items to the Goodwill store in Scottsbluff. The Mission Store has a baler: used clothing is baled into blocks that weigh over a ton. Clothing might be seasonal, worn, or like new but won’t be baled if it has an odor like smoke, urine, or mildew. These bales are trucked to Denver and sold for over $3,000 each to companies around the world who recycle them, either for clothing or for salvage.
Both thrift stores are non-profit organizations, and the money they take in is redistributed in our area. Each store initially covers its building expenses like repairs and utilities. The Collection Basket is open 9:00-3:00 Thursdays and Saturdays. All their funds are turned over to Holy Rosary Catholic Church for use in their ministry, often to people with immediate financial needs.
The Mission Store is much larger and is open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 9:00-3:00. Several years ago they purchased the adjacent building and expanded their operations. The baler purchase was also a major expense. Fielding said that they write monthly checks to the Indian Mission Church of God, the Alliance Ministerial Association, and the Backpack program. Each October grants are awarded to non-profit organizations in our area. Over $45,000 is given out in our county each year.
Over the next few months, the Task Force on Poverty will be presenting more information about agencies in Box Butte County which deal with problems faced by those who live in poverty. The Mission Store and the Collection Basket are great examples of organizations whose mission is to help those who are less fortunate.
The Task Force on Poverty will be hosting a day-long conference, Bridges Out of Poverty, on June 11, 2020, at the Alliance High School Commons. This organization has a global reputation for helping understand the lives of those who live in poverty. Watch for more information as we develop strategies to deal with this all-too-common problem facing so many in our area.