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Share Shop overwhelmed with donated items

Masha Scheele Photo
The volunteer group from the Friendship Centre sorted through donated items on Wednesday morning, Oct. 7. Volunteers spend their morning sorting items to put out on the shelves before they open the shop at noon. Any excess items are normally shipped to Edmonton, and any unusable items end up in the landfill.

Masha Scheele

Hinton’s Share Shop is asking the public to be more selective in their donations as they deal with the aftermath of the pandemic and the backlog of items.

The Share Shop opened its doors again in late June after being closed for three months due to the pandemic.

“At the current time we find ourselves in a challenging situation, as our excess donations, which comprise around 35 to 40 per cent of what we receive, cannot be picked up for three to six months. In order to avoid sending too much to the landfill, we need to severely limit the amount of goods that we accept from the community,” said Barb Meredith, chairperson of Hinton’s Share Shop. 

Most people don’t realize that only about 50 per cent of all donations are able to be put out in the store, she added.

Roughly 25 per cent is sold to a non-profit organization in Edmonton, called Inclusion Alberta, who sells it to other organizations like Value Village. The other 25 per cent most likely goes to recycling or the landfill, Meredith said.

Inclusion Alberta helps educate and advocate for people with disabilities with the funds they raise from selling goods to Value Village.

Currently, the organization has to rent trailers to store the excess donations that have come in since shops opened back up in the early summer months, and they have little funds left over to fund their programs.

“They felt they had to completely shut down until the backlog is cleared,” Meredith explained.

Once they gradually clear the backlog, they will start picking up donations again. They estimate this could take three to six months.

Value Village can’t buy everything as fast as it is available because they were also shut down during the early pandemic months.

“Everyone was shut down and then when things opened up again people had been cleaning out their houses for months and they wanted to get rid of all this stuff,” Meredith said.

The Share Shop collects a semi trailer load of excess donations every two to three weeks, Meredith said.

“That’s how much is sent away, we do not have the space in the store to store that,” Meredith said.

Besides slowing down the flow of donations, another option is to find some other outlet for excess donations.

Unfortunately there is a lot going to the landfill, something the Share Shop is trying to avoid.

“That’s one of our mandates as well, recycling and reusing is to avoid sending everything to the landfill,” said Meredith.

The Share Shop appreciates the support and the donations from everyone in Hinton but the challenging time means donations need to be selected more carefully, she added.

The shop can only accommodate a certain percentage of donations and they ask that people only send clean saleable merchandise that is still in good condition. Clothes with holes and stains or with missing zippers will most likely end up in the landfill. Volunteers at the Share Shop go through all donations to sort the good saleable items from the items that can’t be sold, and then they select what they can put out on the shelves and what can go to Edmonton.

“If you give us books, toys, puzzles, games, we ask they be in good condition, not damaged in any way, no missing parts, books not having torn pages, tattered spines, again these things would either have to go to recycling or put in the garbage,” Meredith explained.

Anything that isn’t in good shape can be recycled directly as that is what volunteers at the Share Shop will need to do with items that aren’t saleable.

Additionally, they are asking the public not to send anything that is non-seasonal, like clothing or sporting equipment. This means no shorts or golf clubs and life jackets. Winter clothes and skates are more acceptable during this time.

“If we are being continuously overwhelmed with donations, as much as we appreciate them, we would possibly have to shut down entirely for a period of time. Which we don’t want to do and the community doesn’t want us to do. The community can help us by being selective in what they send,” Meredith said.

The Share Shop doesn’t collect things like car seats, large furniture, large, old, or outdated electronics, VHS tapes, and VCR’s.

Furniture can be brought to Neighbourlink in Hinton, who donate furniture to families in town.

The Share Shop is operated by eight different non-profit groups and churches. At the end of the year, any proceeds are divided amongst the groups who use it for various programs. 

“Most of the money stays right in town,whatever people are spending at the Share Shop is benefitting Hinton as a whole,” said Meredith.

Currently there aren’t as many volunteers due to the pandemic and most of the volunteers are seniors. Meredith added that it is sometimes difficult when people donate large bags and heavy boxes of stuff as the volunteers are mostly elderly.

“Hefting these bags and boxes can be quite challenging. If people could be aware of that and not send things that are quite so heavy or bags that are not quite so full. We do appreciate all the things people are doing and we appreciate the support,’ Meredith said.

Protocols at the Share Shop include mandatory facemasks for anyone who enters the shop, and the use of hand sanitizer as they come in. The number of shoppers at one time inside the shop was limited and they initially said no children under 16 would be allowed.

“I realize this has been hard for some people but I hope the community can understand that it is necessary to protect our volunteers and our customers,” said Meredith.

The majority of volunteers are elderly and that is the most vulnerable population. The eight volunteer groups are currently rotating each day due to the lack of volunteers available.

Meredith added that the shop is a good space for volunteers to socialize, and it’s a great place for those looking to donate and looking to shop.