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Whistler Community Services shows strong growth at AGM

Both Re-Use-It and Re-Build-It centres saw record years in sales



It has been a hallmark year for the Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS), with the non-profit posting strong financials at its annual general meeting on Wednesday, June 24.

There were a record number of sales and donations at both WCSS-run thrift stores, with the Re-Use-It Centre posting $834,644 in revenue for the fiscal year, a four-per-cent increase over 2014, and the Re-Build-It Centre bringing in $269,018, a 13-per-cent jump.

"I think the stores have got a lot of momentum in the community now," said WCSS finance manager Jonathan Marks.

"We're getting a lot of quality donations now, and they have a great reputation."

Including revenue from both stores, grants, program and membership fees, and recycling donations, WCSS brought in just over $1.4 million last year, a figure that bodes well for the social programming side of its operations.

"It allows us to have really secure funding for our programming," Marks said. "That's just a great thing for Whistler because it allows us to react to community needs and provide programming."

Operating costs for both thrift shops totaled $642,979, with over three-quarters of that amount going to staffing costs for nine full-time and seven part-time employees.

Marks shed some light on why such a huge portion of the total costs went to wages.

"We're competing with businesses for labour so we have to pay a competitive Whistler rate for a retail job," he said. "And they are really tough jobs. It's what it takes to run a store because the volume of donations we're handling is pretty incredible."

The WCSS is also able to keep costs down at the Re-Use-It Centre thanks to a reduced rental rate offered by the municipality. The registered charity paid a total of $58,749 in rent for both stores in 2014.

It cost $581,832 to run 22 WCSS programs for the year, with 58 per cent of that amount going to pay wages for positions like outreach workers and food bank staff.

The food bank served 2,292 people last year, including 444 children. Marks spoke about how WCSS continues to see a steady rise in families using the food bank.

"I think it's just shifting demographics as people are staying in the community raising families and coming into circumstances that might require help from the food bank," he said.

Injured individuals also made up a significant portion of food bank users last year, Marks said.

"It's such an active town that people hurt themselves and then can't make money," he noted. "So many people are operating paycheque to paycheque, so if an injury comes up it can be a real struggle for them to pay their bills."

Outreach workers were kept busy last year as well with a slight uptick in people seeking counselling services, which Marks chalked up to two factors.

"I think there's more knowledge of Whistler Community Services and the programs we offer in the community," he said. "As well, I think maybe there's been a shift in the stigma around mental health issues, so people are a little bit more willing to seek us out and get help."

In all, outreach workers held 1,782 one-one-one meetings in fiscal 2014, up from 1,508 the previous year, and visited 124 classes in local schools.