Every two months, the Salvation Army trucks about 13,600 kilos of clothing and other donated textiles out of Whitehorse.
That’s roughly the weight of two adult African elephants, or 2.5 minivans.
Right now, a lot of that stuff is destined for recycling plants on the lower mainland, thrift stores in Port Coquitlam, BC, or overseas outreach projects, said Whitehorse Salvation Army Capt. Robert Sessford.
The reason the items are trucked out — Whitehorse citizens and charities are literally donating tons of stuff that don’t always appeal to second-hand shopping enthusiasts.
So it’s either ship ’em or toss ’em.
And the Salvation Army has no desire to add to the number of consumer items lining the city’s landfill, said Sessford.
“People in Whitehorse are generous and they do contribute more than people wish to purchase locally. So, we do send surplus items down south,” he said.
The charity just about breaks even on its southern shipments, so the true profit is knowing it’s participating in waste reduction, added Sessford.
Even with the 13,600-kilo shipments, the 10,000 to 15,000 items sold each month, and the store’s donations to the needy, staff at the store are busier than ever — the donations just keep coming.
A quick glance into the Fourth Avenue store’s backroom is testament to just how much Whitehorse residents give.
The room runneth over with piles of donated coats, pants and undies literally reaching from floor to ceiling.
And, while the donations are appreciated, welcomed and sought after, it takes time for the staff at the charity’s thrift shop to assess the mountain of goods, said Sessford.
It takes time to sort what can be sold and what can’t, and time to sort one kind of item from another.
“There’s a lot of value-added labour associated with the product,” said Sessford. “We can’t just take someone’s donation and dump it out and have people say I’d like to buy that.
“We get Christmas trees in July and we get swimming suits and beach balls in December.
“The pile that one would see in the back of the store is not a pile of greediness or anything like that, it’s our attempt, with our limited resources, to be able to deal with it.”
And it is dealing with it.
In 1999, the Salvation Army thrift store was a modest 243-square-metre retail space with a .9-metre by .9-metre closet full of donations.
Eight years later, it has expanded and finances a soup kitchen and a food bank, said Sessford.
When asked why the store doesn’t donate all its extra goods to the needy, Sessford’s answer was simple — other charities in town are actually donating to the Salvation Army.
Maryhouse does, said executive director Kate O’Donnell.
What the charity can’t give away or sell at its twice-monthly thrift sales it gives to Sessford’s organization.
“Some of (the 13,600-kilo shipment) is ours.
“What we do is, when we get a donation, we sort it to determine whether the items have two-years wear left in them or not.
“We’re fortunate, when we get full we can take it to the Salvation Army. ”
Maryhouse would benefit from more targeted donations at this point, said O’Donnell.
“We have a strong need for men’s clothing in good shape. Especially coats, mitts, hats, toques and pants.”
The city’s only women’s transition home also gives some of its donations to Sessford’s organization, said Barbara Powick, executive director of Kaushee’s Place.
“Sometimes, once in a while we (get surplus donations) when families are moving out of town, or things like that,” she said.
“Or it’s fall time and they give us a bunch of summer stuff, which is difficult for us to store because we don t have the space.
“A lot of times we take it to the Salvation Army. ”
Kaushee’s Place would also benefit from more targeted donations, she said.
“Any kind of winter gear right now is pretty good.”
The women, who are often fleeing violent situations and can’t bring much with them, could also benefit from formal clothes they could use for job interviews and lawyer visits, she