Declining donations - Jan. 30, 2013
St. Croix Vocational Centre’s executive director Tammy Parks, centre, surveys the empty interior of a donation barn with centre clients, Ashley, left and Shauna. The baby barn used to be filled to the brim each weekend with items centre clients sorted and sold at a thrift store. Donations lately have been significantly reduced.
The St. Croix Vocational Centre is in desperate need of donations of used clothing, furniture, books and other items it can sell in its thrift store, the Wood ’N Wardrobe on King Street.
“Donations are our lifeblood and they’ve have never been this low, ever,” said Tammy Parks, the executive director of the non-profit centre that provides employment and services for intellectually disabled adults.
Parks said the vocational centre has been operating for 30 years.
“Unfortunately this drop in donations is affecting our thrift store sales, which in turn affects the amount of revenue we are able to generate to keep our program operational for the intellectually disabled clients we serve.
“Donations are the core of everything, especially this time of year because we can’t be out earning money mowing or raking, doing any of those things.”
The vocational centre has a baby barn at its location at 129 Union St. where donations can be dropped off 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Early Monday afternoon, it was empty except for two dusty television sets.
“It used to be we’d come in on a Monday morning after a weekend and we’d have tons of donations,” said Parks looking into the empty shed.
“This whole building would be full and we’d have work for two or three days and now there’s usually only a few bags or a few things.”
Park said the vocational centre will pick up items people have to donate and will travel as far as Saint Andrews for donations. Anyone with a donation can contact Parks at 466-4977. She said the centre did try to establish a site in Saint Andrews where people could drop off things, but it proved too difficult to manage.
Parks explained that not only do the vocational centre clients work in the store, they also work in the warehouse area, sorting the donations.
“Sorting is one of the big jobs they do.”
The Vocational Centre is funded in part by the Department of Social Development and the remainder of the funding to keep the organization afloat has to be garnered by the centre through a variety of work related events.
Parks said the Vocational Centre relies on the support of the community to keep its thrift store stocked with clothing, books, furniture, appliances, bedding and other items.
There are a number of reasons that might have contributed to the reduction in donations, and she speculated the current poor economic climate might be the biggest reason of all.
“It could be people are looking to sell their own things as opposed to donating them because people need the money. It’s very hard to tell.”
Parks said the thrift store plays an important role in the work of the vocational centre.
“It provides employment; they learn the job working in a retail setting, it brings in the funding that keeps us going.”
Parks wondered if telling people they couldn’t drop off donations at the store anymore has hurt the centre. The store sustained significant damage in May of 2011, during a fire which began overnight in a pile of donated items by its front door. It is believed a bar patron on his or her way home in the early morning hours flicked a cigarette butt into the garbage bags containing the donations.
After the fire, people were asked to drop off donations at 129 Union St. only.
“I hope it didn’t turn people off saying we couldn’t accept donations there.”
The store’s future is not yet in jeopardy said Parks, “but I’m very, very concerned.”