MCPAWS Regional Animal Shelter opened its Thrift Store in 2010 as a way to create a sustaining source of income to provide ongoing care for the animals at the shelter. The store has been an unqualified success. With its recent expansion of interior space, the store displays even more of the treasures and oddities that people donate, offering bargains – and sometimes, surprises – to all who enter.
This is largely due to Donna Bourne, Manager, and Toph, her Assistant Manager. With years of experience now, they have both developed keen eyes for the hidden value in some of the items donated to the store. They’re also willing to research unusual, one-of-a-kind items to determine their true value, or repair and improve those donations with a bit too much wear, giving them renewed life which in turn brings in more revenue upon sale.
I recently asked Bourne to share some of the more unusual donations she’s seen come through the store over the years. Her list includes:
Coca Cola playing cards. Doing some research on eBay, Donna discovered that these are a collector’s item, valued at $100.
Harp. MCPAWS board member Duane Coffee has a unique way of supporting MCPAWS. Duane goes to estate sales and purchases all or a good portion of the available items at a good price; he then donates them to the store, often an entire trailer load at a time. At one estate sale, a man whose daughter played harp through high school but then went on to college, got married, had kids and no longer played hung onto the harp, hoping someday she’d play it again. Duane offered to buy the harp with the other items, but the man said no. A month later, however, he reconsidered and sold the harp to Duane. This exquisite musical instrument was displayed at the store and quickly purchased by the father of a local high school student who worked at the store. “I think that boy purchased pretty much every musical instrument that came through here,” Bourne says with a laugh. While the boy’s father – who paid $500 for the harp – expressed some concern about whether his son would actually play it, he agreed to indulge his son’s passion for music and musical instruments, making everyone happy, including Duane.
Gown worn at Eisenhower’s Inauguration Ball in 1957. This item was recently donated and is still at the store. Donors Val and Ben Cabell told Bourne that the gold, shimmering floor-length dress was worn by Ben’s mother, attending the inaugural ball. They think it’s the only time the dress was worn, and shared an anecdote: While Ben’s parents were dancing, the crinoline petticoat his mother wore underneath the dress to shape and poof the skirt started slipping; quickly dancing behind a large potted plant, they were able to get the petticoat off and ditch it before returning to the dance floor.
A patch-work mink fur coat. Bourne notes that over the years the store has received several donated furs, typical for thrift stores.
Hobie Cat. One morning upon arriving for work, Bourne found a Hobie Cat – a small, catamaran sailing boat – left at the door. No note, no request for a donation receipt. It was quickly snatched up for the unique deal that it was.
Dune buggy. A local resident donated a Baja 1500, a two-seat, street-legal dune buggy, which was sold for $600.
Vietnam-era fragmentation vest (flak jacket). The store received three, donated by someone whose father served and kept them. Some research on eBay showed Bourne these were collector’s items worth $80-100 each. The store has sold two of the vests at $80/each and still has one for sale.
A stuffed goat head. Bourne notes this is the only animal “trophy” they’ve received, although several sets of antlers have been donated over the years.
Hand-carved African ceremonial mask. Bourne said this was donated years ago by a man who apparently worked for the government and traveled overseas a lot, spending some time in Africa. He was moving and so donated the mask. It sold for $250.
Antique tea cart and tray. This unique piece belonged to the donor’s grandmother. Realizing she would never use it herself and not wanting to keep it hidden away in a box where no one could enjoy it, the donor gifted it to the store.
Two similar, full sets of Thomasville bedroom furniture. These were very nice donations, says Bourne. One set sold as a unit for $1,600; the other was sold in pieces.