A relatively young not-for-profit organization has already made a big impact on the district.
Since starting in 2014, the volunteer-run Emo Thrift Shop has helped cover the operating costs of the food bank and donated over $30,000 back out to the community through revenue received from clothing sales.
“The thrift store was created for a dual purpose,” explained thrift shop president Lincoln Dunn.
“Number one was to financially provide support to the food bank as needed; and number two was to provide a service back out to the community.”
The Thrift Shop first started five years ago when the Emo Anglican Church closed down.
After the church's closure, the Anglican Diocese sold the building for a very nominal cost to the people who ran the already-operational food bank.
With the help of volunteers they then opened the Emo Thrift Shop section of upstairs in the church.
“I want to acknowledge the support of the Anglican Church in making sure that work could continue in our community because without that facility it would be very, very challenging for us to do what we do,” Dunn remarked.
Although, he said it's important to note that the food bank and thrift shop operate as two entirely separate entities, so money that is donated to the food bank stays at the food bank.
But money that is donated or spent at the thrift shop will be used to pay for the heat, hydro, telephone, and other operational costs associated with running the thrift shop/food bank building.
The thrift shop's mandate is to give up to 80 percent of its annual general fund surplus to charitable causes. and in 2018 it donated $11,650 in community outreach, in addition to providing $4,000 to the food bank to buy groceries.
“Over the last several years, we've had a steady increase in customers at the thrift shop and a gradual, steady increase in revenue as well,” Dunn said.
“This has not only enabled us to both continue the work of the food bank and supporting those who are dealing with food insecurity but also make some donations back to initiatives and organizations that serve all of our community,” he added.
The thrift shop's board decided they will make a donation each year to a local initiative, a regional initiative, and a broader international, or global initiative.
“Based on what the revenue stream looks like we've allocated in our budget a specific amount to be going back out into the community in donations,” Dunn noted.
One of the initiatives the thrift shop has taken on this year was rewarding two high school students who completed an exceptionally high number of volunteer hours with the Emo Thrift Store Community Volunteer Scholarship.
“It's supporting kids who are making a difference and making a decision to volunteer in their communities,” Dunn explained.
“We wanted to focus on kids making an effort, over and above the number of hours that they are required to do of volunteerism, attached to graduating already,” he added.
The scholarships will be awarded to two students residing in the central part of Rainy River District—from La Vallee to Chapple, north to Nestor Falls, including First Nations who have demonstrated a willingness to invest in their community through volunteering, Dunn said.
“The thrift store board encourages Grade 12 students to get out and volunteer, record your hours and apply for this scholarship through FFHS when scholarships are announced,” he noted.
In late 2018, the thrift shop donated $5,600 to La Verendrye Hospital to help purchase a custom made chair for dialysis patients.
To help offset the costs of the Emo Hospital's renovations, the thrift shop donated $5,000 in 2017.
That same year, the Women's Shelter of Hope received $5,000 and the Manitoba Interfaith Council's “Welcome Place” also received $5,000.
Apart from diverting a small portion of funds to reserves for capital projects all of the money is being spent on charitable initiatives or operational costs associated with running the thrift shop and food bank.
Dunn is very passionate about running the thrift shop and is happy to support the food bank.
“We know that food insecurity continues to be an issue in our district, despite some of the changes and opportunities that have come with the advent of the [New Gold] mine and those pieces,” Dunn said.
“We still see there are a lot of people who are accessing our facility because they are not able to support themselves fully,” he added.
“We have to support those people who aren't able to work," Dunn explained. "A lot of our clientele are older, single folks who are on pensions.”
As well, Dunn said he sees young families who are struggling to find employment accessing it.
He added that clothes are a huge expense when buying for young children who grow out of them constantly, so the thrift shop is a great resource for providing folks with access to good quality clothes for youth.
“It's not only offering people in town to find a good deal but it's also supporting those who have the income challenges and making certain that they're still able to find clothes for the kids,” Dunn noted.
“As the seasons change, we're making certain that kids are going back to school in clothes that maybe aren't brand new but are in really good shape,” he added.
Dunn said the thrift shop has a fantastic team of volunteers who are very diligent when sorting through clothing donations.
“They take a lot of pride in the work that they do there and make sure that what we're offering is just good quality stuff,” he remarked.
“We get a lot of donations and we try to redirect things as we can if they're not up to the quality we're hoping to have there,” added Dunn.
The area that the food bank and thrift shop serves is quite large, with the only other facilities located in Rainy River or Fort Frances.
Dunn said he's always blown away by how supportive the community is of those in need.
Moving forward he encourages anyone with extra clothing to bring it to the thrift shop.
“This is a fantastic, non-denominational effort to support the less fortunate in our community and it's also a way to reduce what we have in our households,” Dunn noted.
“If you're looking for somewhere to send that stuff, this is a great place to take it,” he added.
As well, Dunn said the food bank can always benefit from cash donations or non-perishable food items.
“The need and the usage of the food bank continues all year round,” he remarked.
“'Stuff-a-Cruiser' is a wonderful initiative that our community has created and it always fills our shelves every year, and this past year I think we had the most donations we've ever had,” added Dunn.
“But the thing with 'Stuff-a-Cruiser' is that we receive all of that food and once we get to March or April, our shelves are starting to go bare again," he said. "So 'Stuff-a-Cruiser' is wonderful but the donations need to be there all year round.”
The Emo Thrift Shop is located on 23 Colonization Rd. in Emo . It's open Wednesdays from noon-4 p.m.
To inquire or make a donation, people can contact the thrift shop office at 482-2700.