Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is celebrating 50 years of thrifting with the anniversary of the opening of the first MCC Thrift shop in 1972. The MCC Thrift network provides financial support for the work of MCC around the world. Over the last 50 years, MCC Thrift shops have contributed over $305 million to help people in need.
Before opening the first shop, MCC had been shipping secondhand clothes to partners all over the world. Clothing had been in short supply due to the devastation of the Second World War. In the early 1970s, MCC leaders determined that the money spent on shipping would be better used buying items locally at a fraction of the cost.
After hearing about this change, Linie Friesen, Selma Loewen, Susan Giesbrecht and Sara Stoesz of southern Manitoba dreamed up the concept of opening a temporary shop with the goal of turning secondhand clothing into cash to help others. In March 1972, the first MCC Thrift shop opened, in Altona, Man.
Fifty years later, with more than 85 shops in operation across Canada and the United States, MCC Thrift continues to help provide relief, development and peace in the name of Christ for people all over the world.
“We thought after about six months, everyone would have cleaned out their closets and we’d be out of business, but as you can see, that’s not the case,” said Susan Giesbrecht, one of the founders. “It grew much beyond what I or any of the four of us thought it would grow into.”
Thrift shops are continuing to grow in popularity as people move towards living more sustainable lifestyles with eco-friendly practices. Secondhand shops offer individuals and families a unique shopping experience while extending the lifespan of clothing and housewares, helping to cut down on environmental waste. Plus, budget-friendly prices help hard-earned wages go a little further with current supply chain shortages and increasing prices on everyday essentials.
“It’s encouraging to see more people choosing to shop thrift,” said Scott Campbell, MCC Canada director of development. “Awareness about the impact that unchecked consumerism, including fast fashion, is having on our environment is growing. Shopping secondhand is a great way to help reduce our impact on the planet.”
To encourage people to develop eco-friendly practices and to celebrate this anniversary milestone, MCC Thrift launched its “Thrifty 50 Challenge” on March 14, 2022. Participants will receive a weekly sustainability challenge in their inbox every week for 50 weeks, plus a chance to win weekly MCC Thrift gift cards. For more information about this challenge and to sign up, go to thrifty50challenge.org.
In 2007, founders of MCC’s network of thrift stores (from left) Linie Friesen, Selma Loewen, Susan Giesbrecht and Sara Stoesz, gathered at a celebration in Winnipeg, Man., to recognize their contributions to MCC. (MCC photo/Gladys Terichow)