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Entries in All Thrifty States (3)

Sunday
Apr282013

And thrifting in Maryland polishes off the lower 48 states! 

Today I got to wake up in my own bed, make crepes and read the newspaper before my last stop of the trip, just up the road in Crofton, Maryland. 

This trip was extra special because I was able to bring Ed, who was sadly not able to join me on the road this time around. 

This is a Goodwill Super Store-- and it's pretty darn super!

As near as it is to where I live, I wonder why I've never been here before! In typical DC-suburb form, there were lots of suits, American flag stuff, 5K tees and brand name stuff. 

I loved this little Uncle Sam chalice I saw back in knick-knacks-- perfect for a glass of wine on July 4th.

I stumble across a sassy little ashtray that has a secret surprise on the back. 

Now that I know I'm going to the annual DC photo prom in a few weeks, I stroll past the formals section but sadly-- no dice. 

 Ed enjoys looking around a bit for himself while I do my duties one last time. 

I spot Clara and her son Tommy back in the men's suits section, where Tommy is trying on sport jackets for his upcoming confirmation. He's also got his 8th grade dance coming up, so it's a great way to get a few uses out of the same thrifty purchase. 

Tommy tries on a few-- one Nautica, one Eddie Bauer, they both fit great.  

This is Tommy's first time thrifting, though Clara says she came to thrift stores a lot back in her high school days when extra large flannel wearing was all the rage.  "When we walked in I told him he could get whatever he wants," she said.

For some reason, I have a feeling these two will be back to this place. I will too-- especially since Ed has found a few treasures of his own.

We check out and make a few last photos of the trip out front with their awesome signage and make one last lunch trip to celebrate the end of the lower 48 states being completed at a restaurant in nearby Annapolis in HaRVey2.  

Fast forward to getting home and taking a nice long afternoon coma nap, I'm gearing up to go back to work tomorrow and trying to wrap my head around the fact that I only have two states left.

TWO! (And I bet you can guess which ones.)

I'll keep this post short and sweet-- it's been an epically long three weeks.  

I just want to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who helped make it possible-- GOODWILL!

Thanks to them for their sponsorship and support! It's been a blast meeting all the friendly staff and seeing all the cool stuff they do!

Also definitely my husband, Ed, who lets me embrace my crazy dreams even if it means three solid weeks of double dog-walking duty. 

 

I'll still post to this blog, but probably once a week or month.  

Be sure to keep following it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, too! 

Over and out, thrifters! 

Saturday
Apr272013

Nearing the end of the journey--New Jersey and Delaware! 

Today I got to wake up in my mother-in-law's cozy guest room and sleep in a little, since the first store of the day is just down the street.

I have to admit, I've been there every single time I visit her many times before. I love browsing at this store because it has such a sense of whimsy and humor about it. The manager Al decorates the checkout area with fun signage and clever things from the store that always make me smile. And their display window is always dressed up for the season with funny stuff-- a sure bet for a giggle every time I come.

I walk in and immediately start my research back in t-shirts, where I'm half expecting to find some pizzaria tees, and definitely expecting to find some Eagles jerseys. The Eagles don't let me down, including several bearing the proud stains of game day chili-dogs past, and surprisingly there's more New York souvenir shirts than I thought there would be.  

Sometimes going through this section can be like seeing old ghosts, and this one stopped me in my tracks. A vintage souvenir tee from sometime pre-9/11, showing the Twin Towers in all their skyline glory along the Statue of Liberty. 

I take a stroll through knick-knacks where there's a stack of photo frames with photos still in them. A yearbook photo, a prom picture of the same teenager holding hands with his date.

I never quite understand why people donate things like this, it seems so sad. But at the same time, it's an interesting way to meet the people that live around here.

That's right about the time I meet Ken and Becky, who have just found a fun Phillies t-shirt, playing off the Coke logo that reads "Choke" in reference to a game against the Mets. They say they love the "thrift store song" that a daughter introduced them to, tough she's not much of a thrifter herself. Ken says they once even played it on his cell phone as they walked into a thrift store.

I imagine customers in a store going wild (like in the video) in slow motion as Ken and Becky walk in wearing fur coats.

Ken says he wasn't a thrifter until his friend took him to a Goodwill to look around about two years ago. "I found a pair of new Wolverine boots," he said.

He was hooked.

They make a great thrifting team, I can tell, and talking with them only confirms my suspicions.  They say they take photos of stuff on their cell phones and text them to each other when they're on opposite sides of the store and sometimes post them on Facebook. 

And like me, they like visiting stores wherever they go.

"We went to visit family in Delaware and went thrift shopping," he says.  

I also meet Sharon, who says she somes several times a week. "It's one of my hobbies," she says. Today's discount color is yellow, so she's looking to score some half-off goodies. "If I can use it it makes me really happy."

I leave with the Twin Towers tee and head back to my mother-in-law's for a bite of lunch before heading to Delaware. 

About an hour later I'm crossing the Delaware River (for the second time this trip) and scouting out the store in Wilmington.

I know Joe Biden's a donor at the stores here, and I'm curious to see what may have come from his closet. 

As usual, I head right to the tees, where I find some possibly-from-Uncle-Joe epic shirts.

One has a happy face and says "Happiness is a Republican Majority."

Another has a fist drawn on it and says, "Chuck Norris Approved."

A third, from the movie The Hangover 2, has a photo of Zach Galifianakis and says, "Please Address Me As Captain," which I can't help but picture Joe wearing while kicking back with a beer the White House.

The last one, I'm SURE had to have come from his donation bin-- one that shows a Trans Am and says, "Show 'Em The Bird" -- which immediately reminds me of one of the funniest Onion pieces ever done on my favorie gaffe-prone VP washing his T-bird in the White House driveway.

Oh, Joe!   

I'm glad to know we share a love of Goodwill! 

I meet Lee, who the employees here tell me is a regular. And a jokester.  Lee doesn't let me down.

I tell him about the project and he tells me he's a photographer, too. He's found lightstands(!) and camera bags(!) here for super cheap.

Between questions and answers he's doing magic tricks and telling me jokes. First a half-dollar coin appears from no where, then it's gone and discovered inside my coat sleeve. 

I ask what he found today. He tells me "I found a henway."

A henway? What's a henway? 

I feel dumb for not knowing.

He tells me, "I don't know-- about five pounds, I guess."

HA! 

Then he makes my pen seemingly turn to jello in his hands-- then shrink-- only to be recovered fully and put back in my hands.

"I work with children, so I'm a kidder," he says. 

He also buys and sells things online that he finds here. He recently found 1980's era Legos, still in the package that he says are worth an awful lot. And today he's found a Vitamix mixer, and when he tells me how much he paid, I'm incredibly jealous I didn't see it first.

"I like recycling and saving," he says. "It's a treasure hunt."

I get back on my research lap around the store when I hear his voice again. From across the tops of the racks he reappears. 

"You know they say the memory is the second thing to go," he tells me.

Which begs the question-- what's first?

"I don't know-- I can't remember!" he retorts.

HA!

As I head to the checkout with a few cute things I found, I thank the employees for introducing me to Lee. 

One of them recounts a time when she had a long line at the register that was making her a bit anxious, and Lee was there to save the day with jokes and tricks for his fellow customers with children-- who were getting a bit impatient with the wait. 

Aw! 

This just proves my point that thrift stores are some of the friendliest places you'll ever go. 

I get back in the car for the final leg of the day's drive-- and type in the GPS the address to my HOUSE!  

I have to say, if you were driving alongside me today on I-95 you would've been witness to some of the most epic behind-the-wheel dancing I've ever done and felt that cuing up this song on my iPod was pretty apropos after a long three weeks on the road.

I have to say though, I did lean forward a bit when I pulled up to the house, although there was no finish line tape across the street. And instead of celebrating with an epic collapse, I instead went inside for an epic hug-out session with Quincy.

I still have a Goodwill store in Maryland to visit tomorrow, so I'll post that here tomorrow night, but as of now-- the lower 48 are COMPLETE!!

48 COMPLETE!!

 All I have left now are Alaska and Hawaii-- which-- I'd love to do ASAP. So perhaps tomorrow will include some lottery ticket-buying.

Once I parked, I unpacked the car into the living room--which currently looks like a thrift-hurricane has hit it. There was some epic tag-popping going on as I got things sorted. 

I'm so glad to be in my own bed again with a little downtime to settle back into my regularly scheduled life before I go back to work on Monday.

If you've been calling or emailing while I was away and I haven't gotten back with you, I just want to say I REALLY appreciate your support and I'm sorry I just didn't have the brain space to spare for much other than the projet while I was away. Hopefully I can catch up this week.

Tonight I leave you from my favorite red chair with a stack of utility bills at my side and a sleeping, dreaming dog gently kicking at my feet in DC.

Tomorrow, Maryland.

Monday-- work.

G'night, thrifers! 

 

Wednesday
Apr242013

Rhode Island's "thrift store gone bad" and a place for kiddos!

I started off the day with a gorgeous view of Boston from my hotel room, and got a bit of a later start than I'd hoped.

I didn't realize until I was pulling away from the hotel just how close I'd been to Boyleston Street-- just around the corner. Just ahead of me at the stoplight was a fire house with signs paying tribute to the victims of last week's events. 

I pulled onto the interstate heading south, and it didn't take long for me to realize I'd seriously underestimated how far it was to Rhode Island. Again, paying a toll every two feet (or at least it felt like it), but at least I was leaving the city and the traffic was light.

Yesterday, a woman at a toll booth on my way into Boston must have seen the terror on my face when I pulled up to pay-- clearly frazzled from the erratic drivers. She leaned into my car as I paid and said, "You know where you're going, honey?" Luckily the GPS hasn't steered me wrong yet, but the drivers along this portion of the trip are definitely stressing me out.

I pulled into Providence with just enough time to meet up with an old journalism friend for a bite before heading over for a visit at the Khadarlis Thrift Shop for just after lunch.

What I found was truly unexpected.

I walked in and met Aisha, the director. She tells me that sadly, they no longer have a thrift store here. That explains why the letters that spelled "thrift" had been peeled off the awning out front, though the word was still legible. 

"Do you want to photograph a thrift store gone bad?" she asks.

Well now I do-- and now I'm interested in why.

Aisha tells me she was working in health care in 2004 when she decided to take a trip back to her native Sierra Leone after the end of the war there-- to check in on family and see that was happening. She saw the need huge need for funding to help the people there get back on their feet, so she started Khadarlis Thrift Store as a non-profit back in Providence as a way to assist those in need back in Sierra Leone. 

The thrift shop opened in 2007. 

But Aisha was getting requests for assistance more often than customers.

Most weeks the thrift store was only making about $60-- a week. By 2010 she realized this wasn't a thrift store, it needed to be a community center since there was clearly more of a need for it. 

She'd already been organizing folks in the neighborhood to clear the streets of graffiti when one day she got a call from Home Depot. They wanted to assist her efforts and soon there were donations piling up from them in the former thrift store.

Then Bed Bath & Beyond called-- they wanted to assist her efforts in helping neighborhood folks in need of home goods. In came their donations as well. Then The Avenue began donating items, then Guess. 

She leads me to the door to the basement, where she says she now stores all the donated goods that come in. When people come in to the center requesting a certain sized dress or a specific item they need, she climbs down the stairs and digs through the boxes and bags to find it for them. 

I take a few steps down the stairs to see for myself and she tells me to be careful.

With good reason.

The basement is completely-- no joke, floor to ceiling-- full of stuff that's been donated. I get about halfway down the steps when the steps are suddenly overtaken by bags, boxes, bikes and chairs and I can't go any further without crawling across it all.  

Back upstairs, Aisha tells me about all the ways the center is used now. As a place to type up resumes and cover letters, as a place to care for 10-30 kids after school (she makes meals at home with her own money to bring and give to kids each day) and she and her volunteers work with partner agencies in the area, including a women's shelter, a family center and the local Goodwill Youth Center, who works with Khadarlis on a youth job skills training program.  

She even has a list on the walls and photos from the programs in Sierra Leone-- and now Guatemala as well-- that she sends food and other goods to when she can. 

Oh, and she also runs a pen pal program with local students and kids in Sierra Leone. 

It doesn't take long talking to Aisha to know she has a huge heart. She doesn't turn anyone-- or anything away. And even despite having been robbed recently (they took her computers), she's still upbeat about what she's doing here.

"God provides," she said. "I was raised to believe that and I do believe that. If you do the right thing, the rest will fall into place."

As for a return to her old line of work in health care, she just smiles. "The pleasure I get from this, nobody can buy." 

So much for a "thrift store gone bad." I tell her I think this is a thrift store gone even better. 

We hug and say our goodbyes.

Now I'm off to a store over on the East side of town called Hope Returns Thrift and Gifts. 

Inside I meet Virginia, who is running the shop today and helping a customer find a cute outfit for her nine-month-old daughter. This shop specializes in second hand kids items-- toys and clothes-- and also sells some locally made goods. 

The variety in the store is obvious and Virginia says she appreciates that. "I like that I don't open a box of something that's 30 of the same."

She says her customers like buying second hand for both financial and philosophical reasons-- opting to keep their consumption footprint low. "They know they're being kinder to the environment," she said. "And because it's been washed, there's fewer chemicals so environmentally, it's a lot friendlier. 

Like Aisha, she also sees the store as a way to create a sense of community. Except instead of covering graffiti, Virginia's store is open to area mom's groups, who utilize the thrift store as a meeting space after hours. 

 

As for why others should shop secondhand, Virginia knows it's not for everyone. "I understand it's a personal preference," she said. "You'd be surprised that the stuff hanging in your closet is hanging here." 

I have to hand it to you, Rhody-- you had a few twists up your sleeve for me today, but they're both inspiring ladies and their stories show the power of secondhand.  

So I leave you tonight in New Haven, Connecticut where I'll visit a Goodwill store tomorrow before making a bee-line to a friend's house where I can overnight in NYC.  

So send all the good traffic/parking karma you can my way, I'm going to need it!

Nighty-night, thrifters! 

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Miles driven since April 6: 3,640

Miles driven for the project so far total (roughly): 13,140