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Entries in goodwill (9)

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! 

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! 

---------------------------------------------------------------

Miles driven since April 6: 3,640

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

Monday
Apr222013

Artists and florals and lobster traps-- oh MY!

Today started a bit late, but for good reason. Who doesn't turn down sleeping in and some homemade french toast? 

With some advice on a few scenic route options and a few goodie bags of road food (thanks Bill and Lorrie!) I got on my way heading east-- off to Maine via the Kancamagus Highway.

It may have been a slower way to get there, but I guarantee it was the absolute prettiest way to get there.

After crossing the White Mountains, lakes, rivers, snow-packed landscapes and lots of moose crossings, I finally rolled into Maine in the early afternoon. Driving toward Portland I see a thrift store off the right side of the road in Bridgton. I parked in hopes I could pop in for a few photos and a chat.  

Inside the Bridgton Hospital Guild Thrift Shop I meet Heather, who is stopping in while waiting for her husband Joe to finish up across the street.

She says she's a found object artist and she often looks for items at thrift stores, auctions, and yard sales to incorporate into her pieces. She likes that by using found objects, she's not adding to her footprint as an artist. "It's reusing, it's recycling," she said. "And it supports all kinds of people in the community." 

Her husband Joe comes in to join Heather, and tells me he's also an artist, working in custom airbrush painting.

They've been married for two years and Joe admits he wasn't much of a thrifter before he met Heather. She also loves that he enjoys it with her and doesn't wonder why she's bringing home random finds.  

"I've always loved old, unusual and broken things-- that's why I married him," she said. "It was in our vows!"

She says she's also found some of her best stuff on the side of the road.

Raising three sons as a single mother, she says one of her sons once asked why his clothes had tags on them-- she'd been buying used clothing for them their whole lives that he had no idea that new clothing had tags!

Now that's thrifty!

As all three of us make our way to the door, Heather spots a floral Hawaiian print dress that she tells me would be perfect on me. She grabs it and holds it up to me, I cave in and try it on-- even though I'd been secretly eyeballing it the moment I walked in.

A PERFECT FIT! AND POCKETS!

Done.

I love those serendipitous stops like this where all the stars align-- a great conversation, a great shop, a great dress and great photos!

Back on the road, I set my sights on Freeport, where my friend Matt told me I could find a great thrift shop he once went to that's just across the street from the LLBean outlet. 

Boy was he right!

I easily found the the Freeport Community Services Thrift Store right where he told me it would be, and just as I stepped out of my car, the manager Lynn was standing with a customer in the parking lot. "I like your car!" she said, pointing to my Goodwill stickers. Well that was easy! I give her a quick rundown of the project and she's eager to take me inside and show me around. 

Not only do they have this store, but it's attached to-- and supports-- a community center. Built six years ago, it's housed in three restored historic Mallett houses, which were origianlly built by E.B. Mallett, a Freeport shoe manufacturer. He built about 200 of these homes for his employees to live in during the 1860's and 1870s. Only a few of them remain. 

Lynn takes me on a tour of the building, which also houses a teen center, a food pantry, the town's archives and a giant community room. 

They recently expanded to an annex, which houses their donated antiques and furniture. Lynn hops in her car and tells me to follow so I can take a quick look. 

What greets me as I walk in-- an antique lobster trap. A LOBSTER TRAP!

Hello, Maine! 

You wonderful Subaru-driving, dog-loving, kayak-owning, seafaring, lobstah-trapping, thrift-loving MAINE!

I get a call from Jane, my Goodwill contact in Portland and we make a date for dinner at a place where we can get a tasty lobster roll. She pretty much read my mind.

I have to admit, I've been looking forward to this part of the trip for this exact reason.

With brown sugar butter sauce? Whoa boy, was it tasty! Thanks Jane and crew for showing a gal a good time!

Sure beats eating a sad bag of microwave popcorn in a lonely hotel room.

So I leave you tonight in Portland, Maine, where I'll check out a nearby Goodwill store in the morning before heading south(!) finally to Boston. 

The end of the lower 48 thrift tour is nearly complete-- one week left!

Nighty-night!

Sunday
Apr212013

A surprisingly active thrifty Sunday! 

This morning I woke up from the most rock solid sleep I've had in weeks, in a cozy guest bedroom of family friends in Vermont. Armed with their recommendations, we all three piled in HaRVey2 today bound for a grand circle of stores we hoped would be open. 

And guess what-- THEY ALL WERE! 

Just down the road from their home was Robert's Thrift Shop, in Bradford, VT. I'd surely have never found this place without their help since it's off the beaten path, around the corner and in a basement portion of a buliding off the main drag.  

The cashier leads me back to a TV room at the back of the store, where I find Robert himself, watching TV and doing crossoword puzzles. He tells me that he started the store by selling stuff from his own home to benefit the local annual fair, for which he was a board member. The store benefitted the Connecticut Valley Fair until recently, when the store switched to funding the Orange East Senior Center, which provides meal delieveries in the area.

He has lots of reasons he thinks folks should thrift shop more, but especially that it keeps things out of landfills. "A lot of products don't break down," he said. 

He also accepts food donations, which are given to needy customers for free. Today he has a box of cereal available. 

The store itself is a maze of stuff with a holiday room in back. You could certainly spend some time digging around here and it's certainly worth a look just for the experience of it. In the front room I spot old liquor bottles shaped like historial figures like Betsy Ross, proudly sewing her flag. There's also a porcelain bust of Clint Eastwood a la Dirty Harry and some cute emboidered kittens on dishtowels. If you know me, you know I can't pass up a cute dishtowel! 

Back in the car we take some winding roads toward Hanover, New Hampshire, home of Dartmouth College and therefore, a very necessary stop. The neighboring town of Lebanon, New Hampshire is where donations from the nearby college usually end up, so I poke into Listen Thrift Store to see what I can find. 

Inside I meet Ruby, the store's longtime manager who actually shopped here as a teenager herself. She's in back helping sort and accetp donations on what seems to be a really busy day-- especially for a Sunday!

The donations roll in at a steady pace as she tells me about the services the thrift store is able to provide to the community, as well as the food pantry the keep in back.

As it turns out, her daughter Angela is shopping out front, so I go introduce myself. She says she grew up in this thrift store since her mom worked here, and shopped here from an early age.

"As a kid it was a little embarrassing, but I also loved it," she said. She started volunteering alongside her mom at age 9, and is currently looking for things for her own 12-year-old daughter.  

The store is packed with people-- packed. And packed I spot a Betty White t-shirt hanging on a wall, which I can't even think about leaving without.

As I approach the checkout counter, I see a box of apples and peppers, with a giant FREE sign.  Also, there's a stand of bread products, including a loaf of french bread, a piece of pumpkin pie and a whoopie pie-- ALL FREE!  

Uh, yeah-- that whoopie pie came home with me. That's precious road food for tomorrow's drive to Portland, Maine!

Back in the car, we stop at a truck stop for lunch, then head to Concord, New Hampshire to take a gander at the Goodwill there. There's all sorts of new(!) gardening equipment and decorations ready for spring blooms.

I'm starting to see a LOT of Boston Red Sox stuff--t-shirts, glasses, hats-- so I know I'm getting closer and closer to the Bay State. Just as I stop to chat with some folks I spot a three-point hat for sale off in the distance-- oh, so New England.

It's near the end of the day, but there's a steady stream of folks browsing the aisles. 

It was a super productive day, so we ate dinner at a Chinese buffet nearby and started the two hour drive home again.

Three stores, four hours behind the wheel, two nights in the same bed and one very tired girl.

Tomorrow-- a drive to PORTLAND and hopefully a little lob-stah!  

Monday
Apr152013

Thrifting creates a sense of community and local pride in The Mitten! 

I don't think I've stayed nearly this close to a thrift store this whole trip-- literally woke up and drove about two blocks to my first stop, the Goodwill store in Canton, Michigan!  

There I met Mark, who told me about the unique connection between the Goodwill mission here and the automotive industry that is the heart of Detroit. Through the store's profits, they're able to employ people with disabilities who assemble automotive kits for Detroit's carmaking industry. 

Walking around with my camera and digging through the t-shirts, I hear "If I Had A Million Dollars" playing on the intercom-- man I love that song, and seems so apropos hearing it in a thrift store!

You don't have to browse long to notice this store is loaded with Detroit pride. From the framed Detroit Free Press Stanley Cup photos of the Red Wings hanging in back to the t-shirts that say "Outsource to Detroit" especially made for their stores by a local company to help generate funds for Goodwill (you can buy one online!), it's obvious that this area is proud of its local culture.

I ran into Rich, who is here looking for collectable records for himself and toys for his granddaughter.  He's a retired middle school teacher who worked in the Detroit School District for years. He likes to thrift in Connecticut too, when he's visiting his daughter, and says he definitely does notice a difference in selection between these two places. "They have more antiques," he said. 

I'll be there on this trip shortly-- I can't wait to check out Connecticut's thrift stores, too!

I also talk a little with Laura, who has swung by on her way home from the gym. She's found a few things for herself, and a few things for her nieces that still have tags on them. 

She also looks for stuff for her husband and two kids, including her son who is notoriously putting holes in his jeans.  "So I just come and replenish them," she said. Recently she found a brand new golf bag for her husband and a Vera Bradley pocketbook.  

Score! 

I decided to heed my friend Rob's Detroit-native advice and head to Slows for lunch for some local flavor. Whoa-- that is a place not to be missed, my friends. It's on the south side of downtown and was packed to the gills with customers. 

I highly recommend the BBQ Sockeye Salmon-- and their mac and cheese-- and their peach cobbler.  What can I say, lunch is my only real meal of the day recently, so I tried to soak up as much Detroit goodness as I could.

Next stop was The Little Thrift Shop at St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Grosse Pointe Woods, which has been in operation for 55 years!

It started as a store in the church's organ loft, but is now found in a little corner of a side building. They're technically closed today, but the door was open and the flutter of laughter from the back of the store led me to a room full of church volunteers tagging fresh items and enjoying each other's company.

Marguerite and BarbaraThey're doing exactly what I would be doing-- sizing up the new stuff as they tag.  "We're our own best customers," they joke. 

It's there I meet Marguerite, a real cut-up, even at age 90, razzing the other ladies while she works. She says she used to date Tom Selleck's father. "His dad was better looking than him," she says, smiling. "No, he really was!"

She's been volunteering here ever since it opened-- and even appeared in a photo, posing with a dress, for the store opening that ran in the Detroit Free-Press 55 years ago.  

These ladies are here on their own time and they clearly love just spending this time together, regardless of what they're doing.

But they love that they're also here to make a difference. The money raised in the store is dispersed to a handful of charities, including a jail ministry, food bank and youth group.  

 

 

They joke as they sign their model releases that they weren't planning on being "models" today. "We didn't wear our jewels today, but we did wear our halos!" Marguerite joked.

A quick fill up at the gas station (Hello there, $15 worth of gas! I love you, Prius!) and it was back on the road and headed to Cleveland.

With the radio on and heading east again, I learned about the bombings in Boston-- such a sad incident. Seeing the actual video now in the hotel is surreal. It's amazing that even more people weren't injured. Thinking about Boston tonight, my visit there in a few weeks and hoping this is an isolated incident. 

Tomorrow-- Cleveland and a drive to Pittsburgh!