In May of 2021, the Outreach Committee at St. Lawrence Church gathered for a meeting to discuss how things were going with current projects, and to see if there were other projects we could pursue. We wanted to see if there was a way we could tackle issues in a way that would be life changing for the people of Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s. The high cost of education, the lack of affordable housing, food security, and affordable daycare were just some of the needs we saw around us.
Unfortunately though, our finances were tight and the ability to pursue any of these projects seemed like a pipe dream. As a result, the idea to start a thrift store operating out of the church was raised. There were a number of benefits to this. It would serve as a form of creation care, as items would be diverted from the landfill. It would provide affordable household items and clothing to people who otherwise couldn’t afford them. Finally, it would provide a new revenue stream, supporting both the parish’s general fund and funding outreach, as proceeds would be split between the two. Of course, thrift stores are nothing new—the Salvation Army has been operating them to fund their outreach programs for over 100 years. However, in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s we saw an opportunity in that there were no other such stores anywhere near us.
St. Lawrence Church incorporates a former school, and we reserved one of the meeting rooms (a former classroom) for the store. Before long, though, we were overwhelmed by the number of donations coming from the community, to the point where we had to extend through the corridor and into our gymnasium. We merchandised and priced items through August and September with the grand opening of St. Lawrence Thrift Store scheduled for October 1st. The store would be open on Saturdays only, from 10 am to 4 pm, and operated solely by volunteers.
To say that the thrift store has been a success would be an understatement. Our first day open, we made enough in sales to cover all of our startup expenses. Between October 1st and December 31st, we brought in just shy of $25,000, and each Saturday in 2023 we have brought in well over $1000. It has become a community event, with long lineups forming outside our door every week before opening, and volunteers coming—not just from within the parish—but from the community at large.
In early February of 2023, our Outreach Committee met again. This time, rather than asking ourselves how we could to do something, we were asking ourselves what we wanted to work on first—and there was a great deal of excitement. We will be providing updates on our efforts in future editions of Anglican Life.
I would be remiss if I didn’t thank some people for their guidance and assistance in developing our thrift store. A huge thank you to Archdeacon Charlene Taylor; former Diocesan Vice Chancellor, the late Mr. Bradford Wicks, Q.C.; Diocesan Finance Officer, Fred Dinham; Archdeacon Amanda Taylor; Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s Town Council and employees; the St. Lawrence Outreach Committee and Vestry, and all of our wonderful volunteers, who work tirelessly to make the thrift store work.