The MCC Thrift + Gift store in Elmira is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year with a series of events, including the usual 40 per cent off sale, a cake cutting by the executive director, and a volunteer dinner.
Betty Marshall has been the store’s general manager for 17 years, and has gradually watched the store grow over time.
“We received more and more donations over the years,” said Marshall. “Last year, we sold 356,733 items. Our sales last year were $1.13 million. And we’re not the biggest MCC store. MCC has six locations in Ontario.”
The location of the Elmira thrift store has also changed several times over the years, from Memorial Street to Samuel Street and finally settling on 59 Church St. W., the former Stone Crock restaurant. The moves were made in order to accommodate the increasing number of items.
“And everybody thought, ‘oh, what are you going to do with such a big location?’” said Marshall with a laugh. “You know, you have to rent out space, and then we thought okay, what can we rent it out for? And then very soon we realized that we could fill the space. The more space we had, the more donations we got.”
The volunteer dinner took place on June 5, to celebrate their hard work. According to shops specialist Lynda Lynch, this dinner only occurs on major anniversaries for the MCC. While they acknowledge the anniversary every year, the 40th will be a much larger celebration.
“It’s quite exciting actually,” said Lynch. “40 years of anything these days is something to celebrate for sure. And 40 years of thrift and all of the good that the volunteers have done over the years is a great achievement.”
“It’s really overwhelming the support that we have from the community we have here with the donations and volunteers,” added Marshall.
The first Mennonite Central Committee store started in Altona, Manitoba in 1972, while the first Ontario thrift shop opened in St. Catharines two years later. There are now 54 locations across Canada.
“It was four ladies,” explained Marshall. “MCC had previously sent their clothing overseas. And they could no longer do it. The executive director at the time said ‘we need a machine that turns clothing into cash.’ So these ladies thought they would open a little thrift shop, and take all those clothes that they couldn’t send overseas and sell it, and make money for MCC projects. But they thought it was just a six-month project, and then all the clothes would be dried up. Well, were they ever wrong! And 46 years later, we’re still going strong.”
The cake cutting will take place on July 25, as will the discount sale. Anyone interested in learning more can visit www.thrift.mcc.org.
“It’s such a great thing to be in the same community and to grow and to see thrift flourish, and all the wonderful people who have come through the doors and contributed to the thrift shop,” said Lynch. “It’s quite a remarkable thing.”