Scott Timmons poses for a photo in SVdP's Thunderbird Thrift Store.

More Than a Thrift Store

A staff member's reflection on the true value of donated items

I have the best job in the world! My name is Scott Timmons and I am the retail merchandising coordinator for St. Vincent de Paul. When I meet people for the first time, they often ask me what I do. I don’t tire of saying how blessed I am to be able to spend my days not only doing something I’m very good at and love doing, but that also provides me with a deep satisfaction knowing that the small part I play for SVDP contributes to the larger mission of SVdP to help feed, clothe, house and heal those in need in our community.

Those that are unfamiliar with SVdP will often say “Oh, you work for the thrift store.” I tell them, “Yes, I work for the retail arm, but it is so much more than a thrift store.” I go on to explain all the services SVdP provides, how needed it is in our community, and how we are able to change lives by working together. 

Almost always the conversation will include a question of what are the neatest and most valuable items I have come across. I explain that our donations come from all areas of the valley, all income households and that our donors are very generous. Not only do our donors provide items of intrinsic value, they give to us items of deep personal value.

Close up photo of vintage books being sold at an SVdP thrift store

Recently, at our Phoenix Thrift Store on Thunderbird Road, I was shown a set of four Tiffany tea cups and saucers. This was a vintage set purchased long before the internet (where you can get almost anything you want online). Someone had traveled to New York City and purchased this set. No doubt this was a special purchase and someone had valued and taken care of the set for years. When it came time to find it a new home, they trusted that in donating it to SVdP, we would obtain the best possible monetary value to help support our mission, and hopefully find someone that would take care of and enjoy the set as they had. I wanted to include photos of this set for this article, but in returning to the store, I found out the set had sold over the weekend. My first question to our staff member was, “How much did it sell for?”

“Almost $400.”

“Wow! That is even more than they sell for online,” I replied. 

“And the woman was so happy to get them,” the staff member told me.

But it's not only through treasures like the Tiffany tea set that our thrift stores sell to help provide funds that support our goals and enrich the lives of those we serve in our community. It is the common everyday things that are so much a part of our lives, like maybe that funny story in the book you just donated can bring a smile to someone else’s face. Or maybe that used couch that no longer fits in with the color décor of your living room can be sold to a family that can’t afford to buy something else new. Think of the conversations and meals to be shared on the dining set you are replacing.

Close up photo of crystal glasses being sold in an SVdP thrift store

‘Things’ are a part of our life. They can enrich our life and help provide us with meaning, purpose and direction. Or they can be obtained, used and disposed of without care or concern. It all comes down to how much effort we give or how much we care. Our retail stores are more than thrift stores. We care. Whatever your donation may be or whatever store you provide it to, we will take the time and effort to evaluate what you've given us, and process it to help support the mission of St. Vincent de Paul.

About two years ago, we developed a new program we call “White Glove.”  It is a specific processing of donations that we feel have merit for special attention because of their potential value. I handle these personally, working with the donor to ensure their donation will receive proper care and processing. Should you wish to donate something you feel warrants the “White Glove,” please mention this to our call center when making your donation, so we can give your donation the attention it deserves.

Oh, and that Tiffany tea set you missed out on? Don’t worry, there are new treasures being placed in our stores every day!

An SVdP thrift store shopper holds up an item she found in the thrift store.