As Bobbe MacKenzie gives a tour of the Mission Dollar Bin, her pride in the non-profit shop is evident.
Mackenzie opened the store four years ago, and it’s not only a great place to pick up a bargain, but all proceeds from sales are given to the Upper Room Mission.
“When we opened four years ago, even the board thought it wouldn’t work,” she said. “The rent is high downtown so we have to sell a lot in order to make it work — it’s why we don’t have anyone here who is paid.
“A lot of people think I’m paid but I’m a volunteer like everyone else — I’m putting in at least 25 to 30 hours a week. But I love this, and helping others helps me. I’m with the customers, it’s stimulating and there is a purpose to my day.”
The store is jam-packed with bargains, most of which are sold for just one dollar, from stylish women’s clothing, to books, games, puzzles and household items. There is a well-stocked men’s section and the children’s section is filled with adorable clothes, from sun dresses to shoes, onesies to T-shirts.
“We have such a great selection of stuff, all of which comes from The Mission Boutique — it’s great stuff, but they just don’t have the room for it.
“Remember, your dollar stays right here in Vernon to help others at our Upper Room Mission.”
MacKenzie’s five-year-old grandson, Sam Dewinetz, can often be found with Nana on Mondays, when the store is closed, puttering around and helping to organize the kids’ toys, many of which are sold for as little as 50 cents each.
“He’s been coming here since he was five months old and loves it here.”
The Dollar Bin currently has about 20 volunteers, but MacKenzie said more are desperately needed and with a few more, she could open the store on Mondays.
“I need 20 minimum just to stay open,” she said, adding that volunteers only need to work one four-hour shift per week, either 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 1 to 5 p.m. “And when you are a volunteer here, you get to do a bit of everything. So they do the cash-out, they open and close — our volunteers like the variety, they are not stuck in the same job.
“The volunteers like it here because when we get five or six people in here, it feels like a party. On the Monday, when we’re closed, the volunteers come down and we have a clean-up day and we always have a big tray of cheese and crackers, and some OJ and soda, and it’s very social.
“Join our happy group of volunteers to help others and enjoy fellowship with our partners and customers.”
MacKenzie brings her many years of retail experience to the shop, organizing a variety of special events, a recent raffle of gift baskets to celebrate the Dollar Bin’s fourth anniversary, and monthly sales where customers can fill a bag for a loonie.
“It really helps to stretch that dollar. When I was a kid, thrift stores were for poor people but now people enjoy a bargain and the idea that they are recycling things instead of having them go into the landfill. Thrifting is for smart shoppers. We get a lot of regulars in here.”
MacKenzie encourages shoppers to stop in and pick up a map of the downtown thrift stores, “Walk & Shop the Thrift Store Way,” to support the other charity thrift shops in town.
She also gives credit to downtown retailer Pampered Perfection, which has helped the Dollar Bin create eye-catching displays.
“We are so blessed to have the support of Pampered Perfection, which has given us beautiful hangers, so it all looks very professional hanging on the racks.”
MacKenzie was recently given honourable mention in the volunteer category of the Community Leader Awards, an initiative of The Morning Star, which recognizes people who are making extraordinary contributions to the community.
“I’m very honoured and humbled by the nomination, and I think the honour is the mission’s as much as mine.”
The Mission Dollar Bin is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 5-ish at 3008-34th St., downtown Vernon.