Sunday, October 3, 2010

'A noble act'

PJ Stewart (centre), fellow volunteer Neil Hendrickson and brothers from Missionaries of the Poor at the end of last Saturday's busy sale. (Photos: Donna-Hussey Whyte)

Monthly thrift shop donates proceeds to Missionaries of the Poor

BY KIMONE THOMPSON Features Editor — Sunday

Sunday, October 03, 2010

AS girlfriends often do, Lorna and her best friend Denise spent Saturday afternoon shopping. They bought a little black dress, two pairs of walking shorts and a handbag. But instead of thousands of dollars, they spent less than $1,000.

"I got a nice little black dress. I'm so pleased with it," Denise gushed. "I also got a handbag for my daughter to go to church."

"And I got two shorts," Lorna added.

The two were customers at Back on the Rack, a recently opened thrift shop on Collins Green Avenue in St Andrew where second-hand men's, ladies' and children's clothes go for as little as $50.

The venture, which was started by PJ Stewart and a small group of friends about six years ago as an annual sale on the basis that their closets were overflowing, is in support of the Father HoLung-headed charity organisation Missionaries of the Poor and is now done monthly.

"We basically wanted a win-win situation. We wanted people to get clothes that they could not otherwise afford, and at the same time, we wanted to make some money for Missionaries of the Poor," Stewart told the Sunday Observer.

"So we decided that we would have a monthly sale, an ongoing sale, so we could move the stuff fast, instead of (an annual sale). We decided to go with two prices: everything had to be either $300 or $100," she said.

There is also a boutique section where prices are either $500 or $1,000, and the "bend down" section carries $50 merchandise.

All proceeds go towards providing food for the sick and indigent in the six homes the Catholic brothers operate here. In addition, items that are unsellable, based on their condition, are turned over to the homes.

"It's a noble act," Father Charles Sushai said of the initiative.

"It's an act of great generosity. This is not just charity (for) it would be easier to write up a cheque. These are business people who didn't have to be here. They could be spending their Saturday with their family or be having a party, but they are here basically being higglers," he said of Stewart and her friends who dedicate the last Saturday of each month to the thrift store.

"It helps the people who are buying stuff, and the money that the Missionaries get benefits the children and it's all because of a group of people who have decided they don't want any profit from the initiative.

"It just shows that in these modern times there is something at the heart of every man and woman that compels them to give and when you give something without gaining anything for yourself, it makes you happy," said Father Sushai, who was among a small group of brothers assisting customers on September 25.

Stewart said she was fearful the idea of thrift shopping would not catch on in Jamaica, but given that the crowd, which she described as having come from "uptown, midtown and downtown", was "twice as much as last month" (August), she is pleasantly surprised.

She said she was doubtful that it would work here "because Jamaicans are very 'stoosh' and the idea of wearing somebody else's clothes is (taboo), so we decided that if we were going to do it, it would have to be very good quality clothes -- no stains, no tears, whatever".

But it takes a lot of elbow grease before the clothes go back on the rack.

"Each month we have benefactors. The people who contribute are our friends and people we know. We do mailings and we do e-mails and try to get people to donate. My home is a drop-off point and my dining room is the sorting table," Stewart said, laughing.

Once sorted, the donated items are laundered and ironed.

"What we think we can get some money for, we sell, because what we do with the money is we basically provide food for the centres. I don't know how many people he feeds per day, but to feed the centres the brothers have to beg, so we have committed to giving a sum each month," said Stewart.

"We're all here for the same reason: to support the work, in a constructive way, that the Missionaries of the Poor are doing."

Back on the Rack operates from a renovated cottage owned by the Sandals/ATL group -- of which the Observer is a member — and opens its doors the last Saturday of every month between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm.

1 comment:

  1. This is really great. Keep it up! Sorry you're not carrying out the sale on a Sunday!