Resale shops benefiting nonprofits begin to reopen

Grant D. Crawford | Daily Press

Stacey Callison hangs up clothing at the Tahlequah Area Habitat for Humanity Restore Rack, which is back open for business.

The COVID-19 outbreak forced area resale shops to close, putting a dent in funding charitable organizations use to maintain operations. Now, some are beginning to reopen.

The Humane Society of Cherokee County Resale Shop closed March 17. There are tentative plans to reopen the weekend after Labor Day, or Sept. 7, so the HSCC is at the mercy of community donations until then.

"Most of our volunteers at the resale shop are older ladies, and most of them have underlying conditions, so we've been very careful to make sure their needs get met first," said HSCC President Margie Railey.

Railey said when the store does reopen, the HSCC will do it gradually to see what kind of traffic it receives. The organization has posted some items on its Facebook page that were later purchased after arrangements were made to meet the buyers. But with no ability to host fundraisers, HSCC hopes the community will pitch in when they can. And when the nonprofit can safely reopen shop, volunteers hope to welcome a flurry of customers.

"We have some small furniture and knickknack items," said Railey. "We have cookware and dishes. Pretty much anything people decide they don't need, they bring it to us and we determine if it's something that still has some life in it."

Since 2010, the Humane Society has transported more than 3,000 puppies to Chicago to curb the population density of stray dogs plaguing Cherokee County.

"Having the shop closed as long as it has been, that's an important part of our monthly income that goes to the operations at our shelter, our spay and neuter program, and our transport program," said HSCC Vice President Roxanna Ritchie. "So it's had a pretty negative affect on our income."

For more information or to make a donation to Humane Society of Cherokee County, call and leave a message at 918-457-7997, or visit www.humanecherokeecounty.org.

Tahlequah Area Habitat for Humanity closed its Restore and its Restore Rack for about six weeks, but they have since reopened. Each store has its own safety precautions.

"The Restore Rack - the clothing store - because they are small and don't have a lot of store space, they are requiring a mask and they are allowing 10 people at a time to come in shop," said Executive Director Linda Cheatham. "We've also installed clear acrylic shields in front of the cash register area to give some [space] between customers and employees. At the home improvement store, we are encouraging a mask, but not requiring. We're not limiting the people to 10 and we have disinfectant we're wiping shopping carts and the cashier area with. Many of the employees are wearing a mask, but we're not requiring anybody who doesn't want to wear a mask to do so."

Although the Habitat for Humanity stores were closed, the public continued to donate items to be resold. At Restore Rack, customers might find an increased selection, as Cheatham said clothing donations were nearly through the roof - literally.

"Every day, there would be five to 10 huge bags of clothing left on the sidewalk," she said. "My husband would go over every morning and bring all of those clothing items into the store, and by the end of that six weeks, we were literally piled to the ceiling in the donation area with just a small walkway."

While items were still donated to stores, Habitat could not make any sales. This forced the layoff of 11 employees, until it could receive money from a Paycheck Protection Program loan it applied for.

"Some of the employees didn't qualify for unemployment, so we paid them back pay," said Cheatham. "Then we called back the rest of the employees, and even though without sales we don't have money to pay people, we had that PPP money, so we could pay people at their regular wage and keep them employed."

Since both the Restore and Restore Rack have reopened, sales have not been what they were, but are adequate enough for the Habitat for Humanity group to support itself.

"I think it's important that people understand all of the profit from the two stores comes in to the house-building portion of the affiliate, and we use that money to build houses for low-income people," said Cheatham.

Those who would like to get involved with the Tahlequah Area Habitat for Humanity by helping build houses, preparing meals for volunteers, or making donations can call 918-453-1332 or visit tahlequahhabitat.org.

The gift shop in Northeastern Health System and Remarkables, located in downtown Tahlequah, are both operated by the Tahlequah Hospital Auxiliary. Those shops were forced to shut down, along with all of the others. Both locations will reopen June 8, when volunteers will be required to wear masks during their shifts.

"The proceeds of the Auxiliary group impact not only our hospital, but the Tahlequah community as well," said Erielle Stout, NHS senior director of marketing and development.

"They support many community organizations, assist with purchase requests that support departments throughout the hospital, as well as sponsor the dinner at the Hearts of Gold Gala each year."

The gift shop in NHS includes an assortment of candy bars, snacks, jewelry, purses, cards, stuffed animals and more. Volunteers frequently visit the market in Dallas, to ensure they are stocking the shelves with high-quality items. Meanwhile, those who visit Remarkables can expect to find clothing and shoes for all ages, as well as household items donated by community members.

Those who with to get involved with the Auxiliary can visit the gift shop on the first of the hospital to pick up an application and discuss opportunities about how they can serve.

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