Photo by Gladys Terichow

Sabrina Minich, a Grade 11 student at Niverville Collegiate earns a community service credit through volunteering at the MCC thrift shop in Niverville, Manitoba. 

NIVERVILLE, Man.— Mennonite Central Committee thrift shops in Canada contributed a record $5.9 million to the work of MCC this past year.
Judy Dyck, coordinator of the 56 MCC thrift shops in Canada, said the steady growth over the years indicates that an ever-increasing number of customers and donors value and support the mission of MCC thrift shops. And they see thrift shops as a sensible and environmental-friendly option for “affordable rare finds” and “secondary uses for their own surplus goods.”
Buying “thrift” is a new experience for Sabrina Minich, a Grade 11 student at Niverville Collegiate.
Minich, the eldest of seven children, and her parents emigrated from Germany to Canada in August 2009 and settled on five-hectares near the town of Niverville, 55 kilometres south of Winnipeg.
When the school gave her the opportunity to earn a community service credit through volunteering for a cause or organization, Minich selected the MCC thrift shop in Niverville.
“This was my first choice,” she said. “I heard this is a secondhand shop that makes a lot of money for people in other countries. We don’t have something like this in Germany. It makes it very interesting for me to do work here. Recycling is very good too but what I find the most interesting is that we are making money for other countries. ”
Interaction with other volunteers and customers helps her improve her English language skills and learn more about the Canadian culture.
“I see a lot of friendly people, all the people are friendly,” she said.
Niverville thrift shop manager, Gerald Loeppky, applauds the support of the community and the efforts of volunteers.
“It is the volunteers that make it happen,” said Loeppky, a former furniture store owner. “The board sets direction but the volunteers are the face of the store. Our volunteers are generous beyond belief. They have caught the vision that happiness comes from doing things for others. They know they are making a difference in the lives of others.”
In 2008, the thrift shop moved into larger facilities—a move that doubled sales to $250,000. This year the shop increased sales by an additional 15 per cent and the board is budgeting for another 15 per cent sales increase for 2010.
The list of 100 store volunteers includes Sadie and John Friesen who are spending their golden years working in the thrift shop every day, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“It is the satisfaction of helping people in need—not just what MCC does with the money but that we can help people here,” said Sadie, a founding member of the shop that celebrated its 35th anniversary in November, 2009.
This passion for helping people, she said, goes back to the stories she heard as a child when her parents talked about their experiences in Russia in the 1920s and how MCC, an organization that started in 1920, sent food and tractors to families in Russia and Ukraine.
“We know the money is being put to good use. That’s what keeps us going,” she said.