Thrifting teens more world-aware

MCC thrift store holds shopping night dedicated to teens

March 14, 2012 | Young Voices
Brandi J. Thorpe | Special to Young Voices
Elmira, Ont.

Just before 6 p.m. at the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Thrift and Gift in Elmira, an hour of chaos ensues. Outside, teens line up, ready for the moment the doors open for the very popular Teen Shopping Night, a recent Elmira tradition that embraces the growing world-awareness of young people in the area.

Inside the store, a small army of staff and volunteers have only an hour to transform the thrift store into a teen shopping centre, complete with some loud Christian rock music. The staff hurriedly empty 29 Rubbermaid containers of teen-focused clothing onto racks, as the aisles are a flurry of activity. With a teen-targeted stockpile months in the making, the anticipation is felt by all waiting for the moment the doors open and the people outside pour in.

The night’s event, the third of its kind in Elmira, has become a regular occurrence, widely advertised and attended by the surrounding community. It’s aim is to target the local youth population in the thrift world and engage them in their growing interest in being more globally aware.

Betty Marshall, manager of the store for the past decade, dons a shiny brown wig, ready to jump into the youth-focused evening. “It is a great way for teens to be made aware of thrift shopping and volunteer opportunities,” she says. “Teens are so world aware, so it makes sense to them that what they purchase helps someone else in the world.”

She goes on to say that teens like to know where their clothes are made now, and how their purchases help people around the world. As is well known, proceeds from MCC thrift stores go to supporting MCC’s mission of sharing the gospel of Christ, working for peace, and improving quality of life around the world. This particular event raises $2,600 for these efforts.

Nicole Sero, a youth pastor at nearby Drayton Community Mennonite Church, has been a volunteer for more than 10 years. She, too, speaks of how youths are more globally aware, and are more and more willing to engage in thrift because of it. “It’s a great way to help themselves and help the world at the same time”, says Sero, smiling as she leans on a newly placed rack of teen jeans.

Sero’s own volunteer experience began when she was in Grade 9, fulfilling her high-school volunteer-hour requirements. Since then, it has carried over into adulthood, where she now encourages the youths in her church to participate in thrift and global awareness. Many youths who volunteer at the store have now begun to walk the same path. They all smile, joy evident in their involvement in this MCC thrifting community.

An added attraction to the event are special store discounts for the young shoppers.

“We want them to shop their way, with their prices,” says Marshall as she dashes from place to place, pointing out the surprise discount stickers customers can peel at the cash counter as they go to pay for their purchases.

Youth volunteer Haley Bauman beams as she shows the discount stickers. Bauman is one of many youth volunteers who has come to help with the event, serving as cashier while proudly wearing her MCC Ontario shirt. Other opportunities for youth involvement include hanging clothing, sorting and pricing items, and helping run the dressing rooms.

The Elmira Thrift and Gift boasts an impressive 200 volunteers, ranging from young to old. Other events of note in this location include December Moonlight Madness, August sidewalk sales, an Earth Day awareness event, and a highly popular Customer Appreciation Day.

The Elmira store will be celebrating its 35th year of operation in 2013, and hopes to continue the involvement youths have in its operations.

Brandi Thorpe’s Mennonite roots were grown in Saskatchewan, flourished in Manitoba, and have sprouted wings as she explored the global church in South America and Europe. Newly married and deeply joyful, she resides for a season in Kitchener, Ont.

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