Volunteers ran around busy stock rooms at Souls Harbour Rescue Mission’s new thrift store early Thursday in preparation for their very first round of customers.
Mission Mart, located in the Bayers Lake Business Park, is the first of many projects Souls Harbour hopes will help expand their reach into other areas of the province. The 17,000-square-foot retail space will fundraise by selling donated clothing, accessories, small appliances and furniture at affordable prices.
Michelle Porter, co-founder and CEO, says all Mission Mart proceeds will go directly into supporting Souls Harbour, a not-for-profit organization.
“The magnitude of this day, of knowing that every purchase that you make feeds a hot nutritious meal to a man, woman, or child in Bridgewater, Halifax, and soon Truro,” says Porter.
Porter says the location will double as a job training centre for adults with disabilities and people who struggle with addiction and mental illness.
With a little help from their friends
Porter says Mission Mart is 99 per cent volunteer driven, and that they’ve managed to get 127 volunteers so far.
“We need over 200 volunteers to run Mission Mart and that’s one of our biggest challenges,” says Porter. “This all came together so quickly, so we still have about 50 to 60 spots that are open.”
Porter says they are looking for volunteers to commit to one four-hour shift a week.
“We can’t do it without them,” she says.
As the morning went on, volunteers walked through aisles full of clothing, shoes and household goods, helping approximately 75 customers navigate the store in the first half-hour.
Mission Mart volunteer Barbara Baker says she decided to help Souls Harbour after retiring. Baker makes jewelry that she donates to the store, and Souls Harbour is helping her out a bit to cover the cost of production.
“I realized I needed to fill my time,” says Baker. “I had already been donating to Souls Harbour Rescue Mission, so I decided to donate my time and my skills doing jewelry. ”
A dream come true
The land that Mission Mart was built on was developed and donated by Besim Halef. He says it is his way to give back to the community.
“I remember when I first came to Canada, now coming on 44 years ago, when I didn’t have any money in my pocket and when I didn’t know anybody and I just didn’t know where to go,” says Halef. “Then I remember a lot of people who could be in the position that I was in, so what is better than Souls Harbour to help people in need?”
Porter says Bayers Lake was their dream location.
“One of the reasons that we really wanted Bayers Lake is because it is a hub, and a lot of people come through this area for shopping,” she says.
Thrifting comes in threes?
With the addition of Mission Mart there are now three thrift stores in the Bayers Lake area. The others are Value Village and Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore.
“Actually, when you are into the thrift business, people who like to shop at thrift stores they like stores that are closer together,” says Porter. “It’s good; it provides good competition and you already know there’s hundreds of people thrift shopping in the area.”