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Whistler's mommy funding social programs

Re-Use-It Centre bursting with furniture, household goods

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Lorna Van Straaten doesn’t want to see one more ugly sofa.

A half dozen are parked by the Re-Use-It Centre’s receiving door, Function Junction’s non-profit used goods store whose $300,000 annual revenue funds 25 local social service programs.

It’s the time of year when Whistler’s hospitality workers are a moveable feast, leaving town – and most of their possessions – behind. The Re-Use-It Centre’s manager said in order to avoid dump fees a lot of donated sofas arrive by the centre’s side door in the middle of the night.

"And we end up absorbing the dump fee," Van Straaten said.

"We’re Whistler’s mommy," said Van Straaten, who has been with the centre for seven months. "Kids move out and drop off their entire household, including their garbage and their dirty laundry."

The centre’s eight staff members sort through items, pricing desirable sporting goods, books, clothing, computer systems and household goods at bargain prices.

"People that are brand shoppers come in, take a look and just fall over. A Liz Claiborne jacket for $5 – how can you beat that?" she said.

Run by the Whistler Community Services Society, the Re-Use-It Centre’s profits fund the local food bank, Christmas hamper program, community kitchen venture and youth outreach programs.

Staffer Tracy Chaepherton says some epic deals have passed through the centre’s doors.

"There was a new cashmere sweater that would have been $600 on the rack that some lucky soul got for $6. And the $8,000 custom touring bike that went for $25 or the $6,000 diamond ring that sold for $6."

But most days it’s the complete $25 computer system or $40 boots, skis and poles package.

The centre is so successful it’s had to expand, increasing the clothing section by one-third with additional racking and adding 200 sq. ft of covered outdoor space for furniture.

Whistler Community Services Society would like to start another re-use-it centre for construction supplies. In negotiation with the municipality, the society’s interim executive director says a construction supply recycle centre would save landfill costs for the community and continue to allow the society to function independently. Located at the proposed Callaghan waste transfer station, Greg MacDonnell says the second re-use-it centre would add to the society’s unique business strategy.

Not associated with any religious or government organization, MacDonnell said he receives calls from organizations across North America wanting to duplicate Whistler’s model.

"It’s something we’re looking into, helping others to set up a centre like ours," he said.

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