by Hayley Bedford
As many of our readers are aware, there is a store on Simms Street in Mountain where you can spend hours of fun, hunting for treasure and thrift store shopping. I am talking, of course, about the House of Lazarus Community Outreach Mission.
The House of Lazarus, or HOL, as it is affectionately called, operates a multi-building facility that accepts wonderful donations from the community in order to stock the shelves of its stores.
The sales from that stock (along with generous monetary donations and fundraising) generates the funds to operate the many programs HOL offers. Programs like The Food Bank, Heat for the Holidays, Operation Back Pack and The Birthday Club, to name a few. In short, the House of Lazarus is amazing.
Like any operation though, even not-for-profits, The House of Lazarus does have operating costs, including the upkeep of the facility and the wages of the staff. Another additional cost the community may not be aware of, is that the House of Lazarus has to pay for its waste removal.
The Big Blue Bin, on site at the Simms Street location, is a 20ft shipping container that staff and volunteers use to discard items that are broken, or soiled, and that cannot be recycled. Unfortunately, the contents of the Big Blue Bin goes to Landfill.
Every effort is made by the workers and volunteers to separate and organize the unusable/unsaleable items. Metal, glass, cardboard boxes, electronics, wood and clothing are all separated and recycled.
While HOL is grateful for the generosity of donors, the problem arises when people discard things that cannot be resold or recycled. Like any facility, HOL has a structure in place and a list of things that, due to either health and safety (such as out of date car seats and used motorcycle helmets), or common sense (yes that shoe is very cool, but where is the other one?) cannot be donated, and, like any facility, the manpower required to sort through these things is huge.
Unfortunately, the occasional “Donation” arrives (usually while the store is closed) of completely unusable items. HOL explained to the Times that there have been recent incidents of urine soaked mattresses, garbage cans full of trash, soiled clothing, and broken items discarded at the site.
As you can imagine, that is the last thing staff want to be dealing with on a Monday morning, let alone the volunteers who are there out of the goodness of their hearts! The team have no alternative but to haul all of these items straight into the Big Blue Bin. It then costs to have the bin taken to landfill every time, which is not a cost that’s easy to swallow for a non-profit.
Donations like that have always been an issue for the House of Lazarus. “We ask that items are in good condition, and can be sold in our stores- clean, free from rips and stains, and in working order. Along with thrifters, people in need shop in our stores using gift cards,” Cathy Ashby, Executive Director of HOL, explained. In the last year, HOL’s waste removal bill was over $10,000! Money that could have been put straight back into community projects.
HOL does operate a traffic light system for their donations, which is posted on the website and social media. Green: Yes please, bring your donations. Amber: please call ahead to check if we can accept donations today. Red: Please keep hold of your donation a little bit longer while we process what we have.
Another battle that HOL, along with many other Thrift Stores face is with old Mother Nature herself. Items that are dropped off out of staff hours are left uncovered and, when it rains or snows, freezes, or the dew gets to it, many items get ruined.
The Times hopes that, by publishing this article, we can raise awareness of an ongoing problem HOL faces. The House of Lazarus is extremely grateful for the generous donations they receive and for the dedication of their staff and volunteers who are all proud to serve this community.
If you are unsure about an item you plan to donate, please call ahead, or speak to staff onsite. For more information, please visit https://hol.community/ or call 613-989-3830.