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Old shirts fund social programs

Re-Use-It Centre celebrates 10 years of social entrepreneurship



Tucked away among the car mechanics and industrial businesses of Function Junction, the Re-Use-It Centre has become a mainstay within the Whistler community.

Each day, residents reduce the amount of stuff they throw in the trash by donating their old goods. Each fall, seasonal workers trek there to fully furnish their rental suites for $300. And each year, the Whistler Community Services Society uses the profits to fund 27 social programs throughout the resort municipality.

But it was only 10 years ago this week that the second hand shop in the south end of Whistler first opened its doors. On Saturday, June 27, members of the community services society celebrated the centre's 10 th anniversary with hotdogs, raffles, live music and even further discounted prices.

The municipality and Janet McDonald, the past executive director of the society, joined forces to build the Re-Use-It Centre on the Function Junction waste collection site in 1999, recounted the society's current executive director Greg McDonnell.

Even in the early days, they always envisioned that profits from the Re-Use-It Centre would funnel back into the society's other social programs, like Youth Outreach, the food bank, and emergency financial assistance.

"It wouldn't have come through without the municipality's involvement," said McDonnell.

"The council of the day had a lot of foresight to allow for the planning. They built it, it is on their land and it worked out really well on the waste collection site out there.

"It is a really wonderful example of social entrepreneurship, and it came in at a time when non-profits seeking grants from the government and foundations was the norm."

The location of the centre next to the waste collection site worked well, said McDonnell. People dropping off their garbage and recycling could also drop off their old shirts, shoes, and kitchenware at the same time.

These days, profits from the Re-Use-It Centre have grown to allow the society to fund 70 per cent of their programs themselves, although they still rely on grants and donations to cover the rest of their funding.

But McDonnell said running the centre is not easy.

"It is quite a complex beast, the Re-Use-It Centre. There are a lot of challenges to pull it off," he said.

It costs the society about $200,000 to run the centre each year. On top of that, the society usually pays $5,000 a year in tipping fees because people drop off stuff that is not fit for re-sale.

"One of our challenges is that people try to avoid paying the tipping fee at the Callaghan Waste Transfer Site by dropping stuff off on our doorstep," said McDonnell.

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