Above photo: College students check out the SELFHELP Crafts (now Ten Thousand Villages) display at the Et Cetera Shop in Bluffton, Ohio, on opening day, Jan. 18, 1974. Celia Hilty, SELFHELP Crafts sales staff, and Lois Kreider, store manager, stand behind the counter. (MCC photo/Leland Gerber)
Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is celebrating 50 years of thrifting with the anniversary of the opening of the first MCC Thrift shop in 1972. The MCC Thrift network provides financial support for the work of MCC around the world. To date, MCC Thrift shops have contributed over $250 million in the last 50 years to help people in need.
Prior to opening the first shop, MCC shipped secondhand clothes to partners all over the world. Leadership later determined that the money spent on shipping would be better spent buying items in the country where they would be used at a fraction of the cost. After hearing about this change, Canadians Linie Friesen, Selma Loewen, Susan Giesbrecht and Sara Stoesz dreamed up the concept of opening a temporary shop with the goal of turning secondhand clothing into cash to help others. In March 1972, the first MCC Thrift shop opened in Altona, Manitoba.
The first MCC Thrift shop in the United States opened in Bluffton, Ohio, in 1974, and there are now 40 locations across the country, with two additional shops opening in the next few months.
Fast forward 50 years with more than 85 shops in operation across Canada and the United States, MCC Thrift continues to help provide relief, development and peace in the name of Christ for people all over the world.
“We thought after about six months, everyone would have cleaned out their closets and we’d be out of business, but as you can see, that’s not the case”, said Susan Giesbrecht, one of the founders. “It grew much beyond what I or any of the four of us thought it would grow into.”
Thrift shops are continuing to grow in popularity as people move towards living more sustainable lifestyles with eco-friendly practices. Secondhand shops offer individuals and families a unique shopping experience while extending the lifespan of clothing and housewares, helping to cut down on environmental waste. Plus, budget-friendly prices help hard-earned wages go a little further with current supply chain shortages and increasing prices on everyday essentials.
“When I had small children, I frequented thrift shops and yard sales because it was the only option that fit into our budget,” said Deb King, MCC U.S. national thrift shop development coordinator. “While that is still the case for many families, I am encouraged to see individuals who have disposable income choosing to shop at thrift shops because they are more aware of the negative impact that fast fashion has on our environment. Thrifting is now practiced by people of all ages and income levels.”
To encourage people to develop eco-friendly practices and to celebrate this anniversary milestone, MCC Thrift is launching its “Thrifty 50 Challenge” on March 14, 2022. Participants will receive a weekly sustainability challenge in their inbox every week for 50 weeks, plus a chance to win weekly MCC Thrift gift cards.
For more information about this challenge and to sign up, go to thrifty50challenge.org.