It will be some time before a group of local organizations knows if opening up a thrift store is a possibility.
However, if it eventually goes ahead, a meeting held last week may have been the first step toward that.
Last Thursday, more than 20 people – many representing one of many non-profit organizations in town – gathered at the Association franco-yukonnaise building on Strickland Street.
They were there for an information session focused on the possibility of a second-hand store that would be operated by local groups.
“We are at the beginning of the process,” Bruno Bourdache, Volunteer Benevolés Yukon’s executive director, said in an interview Monday.
Local free stores (at the city landfill and the Raven Recycling Society) have closed over the last year. As well, the Salvation Army’s thrift store on Fourth Avenue closed five months ago today.
The shutdowns have left many in the city wondering where they can donate used items they don’t want to end up in the landfill.
Officials with both Raven and the Salvation Army have said they couldn’t handle the amount of used goods coming into their facilities, much of it unusable.
The city’s fire department and Raven have since set up clothing donation bins at Raven that will see the textiles sent out to be recycled. Members of the public cannot shop for clothes there.
Other organizations like the Humane Society Yukon have seen unusable “donations” turn up on their properties.
That has forced them to pay tipping fees when they have to remove the items and take them to the landfill.
A number of consignment stores around the city have posted signs on their door noting they are there for donations and do not want items left on their doorsteps.
Karen Wienberg, of Little Footprints Big Steps, said she has looked at a number of examples throughout Canada and the U.S. of non-profits operating second-hand shops to raise funds for the groups.
“There’s several models,” she said.
Given Volunteer Benevolés Yukon’s work with many non-profits in the city, Bourdache was approached with the concept for Whitehorse.
Last week’s meeting was set up to look at the potential interest as well as explore the logistics of such an operation.
The attendees represented organizations like Raven, the Salvation Army, Zero Waste Yukon, Many Rivers Counselling, and the Heart of Riverdale among others, as well as government bodies like the city and Yukon government.
A few interested individuals were there as well.
“There was a good turnout,” Wienberg said. “It was a good spectrum.”
Among the common issues to come up during the session were the potential management of such a store, the possible location and the ongoing issue of unusable goods being dropped off.
“There’s a lot of challenges,” Wienberg said.
Other operations have found ways to manage what comes in, she noted.
Those include provisions that donations come in at a certain time and be looked at by staff before they’re accepted.
At times, acceptance of donations are also temporarily halted – as the Sally Ann used to do – as part of managing the goods coming in.
So far, there are no clear answers for what may work in Whitehorse.
However, a steering committee of 10 people from last week’s meeting has been formed to look at how such shops operate in other regions and how challenges have been dealt with, and potential available space in Whitehorse.
No space was set aside for a thrift store in the new Salvation Army shelter set to open later this year.
Wienberg made it clear the forming of the steering committee does not mean a thrift store will be opening any time soon.
As she stressed, the steering committee’s work will be focused solely on information-gathering.
Only after it has all the information it’s seeking will the group decide how to proceed, and there’s no set deadline on gathering that information.
The first meeting for the committee is set for Sept. 21.