Photo Credit: Porter McLeod
Volunteer Sue Foley is one of the cashiers at St. mary's Hospice Thrift Store on Broad Street.
Pants that don’t fit. Kitchen gadgets still in their boxes. A lamp no one’s turned on in two years. Your ex’s dusty DVD collection. Many of our homes are cluttered with perfectly good belongings that we never use, and with the rise of fast fashion and one-click shopping, it’s far too easy to keep accumulating even more of them. We dump time and money into our extra stuff, filling our garages, renting storage units and taking a lot of trips to Target or The Container Store to purchase new organizational accessories just to help us manage our things.
Fortunately, if you’re looking to simplify, several Athens stores will not only take unneeded stuff off your hands, but turn it to a good cause right here in town. Some will even pick up your donations from your house. In the past few years, Athenians’ donated goods have helped pay for job training programs for people struggling to re-enter the work force, medical supplies for hospice patients, and Habitat for Humanity homes, among many other things. They have provided school supplies, home furnishings and clothing to parents and children starting over after leaving abusive households. They have raised money to combat homelessness in the region.
Charity-affiliated thrift stores in Athens are able to accept items that may surprise some people―sinks and toilets, stained clothes, broken computer equipment and prescription eyeglasses, to name just a few. Their services keep these goods out of the landfill and connect them with groups or individuals in the community who can use them. So, if you have trouble with your spring clean or your imminent post-graduation move, learning about all the local projects your “fat jeans,” extra winter jackets and old '80s party costumes could benefit might motivate you to cut some of your junk loose. You can also do some guilt-free shopping at these stores, knowing the money you spend will go to good causes; all are full of great finds.
For inspiration, here is a brief guide to the seven thrift stores in Athens with charitable missions:
Atlanta Mission Thrift Store & More
434 Prince Ave.* · 706-357-9240 · www.atlantamission.org/thrift-stores
*Building scheduled for tear-down as part of Emmanuel Episcopal's expansion project; existing location will close in early March and reopen at 2471 Jefferson Rd., in the Homewood Village shopping center.
The Atlanta Mission (formerly Atlanta Union Mission) first became active in 1938 as a soup kitchen for homeless men during the Great Depression. Since then, it has expanded its work to include homeless shelters and transitional housing for men, women and children in Atlanta and Northeast Georgia, including The Potter’s House, a residential facility on a large farm near Athens, where men recovering from drug addiction receive therapy and vocational training. The organization’s Christian mission is reflected in the stores, which offer prayer request boxes and coordinate with local churches to help low-income parishioners. The group’s website reports that in 2010 the stores raised more than $500,000, which translates to “908,700 meals served, 332,700 nights of shelter and more than 150 individuals transitioning back into the work force and independent living.”
You can schedule a donation pick-up through the website, which also offers a full list of items they can and cannot accept. Unlike many stores, the Atlanta Mission store is able to accept large appliances, even broken ones, as many can be repaired by their clients and resold.
Emmanuel Thrift House
450 Prince Ave.* · 706-543-7047 · www.emmanuelathens.org/outreach
*Also affected by Emmanuel Episcopal's expansion project, the store will close by Mar. 31 and reopen at 540 Prince Ave. after renovations at the new location are complete.
One of Athens’ oldest thrift stores, Emmanuel Thrift House, an outreach program of Emmanuel Episcopal Church, sells high-quality clothing and shoes, housewares, linens, books and small furniture. The store is operated entirely by volunteers, and its proceeds are donated to a variety of organizations dedicated to helping poor or disadvantaged people, including grants in the past year to Athens Community Council on Aging’s Meals on Wheels program, Athens Nurses Clinic, the Oasis Católico Santa Rafaela tutoring program, Georgia Options dental and mental health programs, and the Episcopal school at Limonade, Haiti. Donations are accepted 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mondays and 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays. They do not accept electronics.
10 Huntington Rd. · 706-433-1900 · www.ging.org
4070 Lexington Rd. · 706-395-1553
As part of the Goodwill of North Georgia network, the large Goodwill store in Athens raises funds for job-training programs and services in the region. Both locations have a career center on site, where job seekers can use phones, computers and photocopiers, and attend recruitment fairs with area employers. The donated goods business helps support workshops and seminars on skills ranging from using Microsoft Word to dressing for success in the office and specific job training programs, including ones for custodial work, construction and hospitality. According to Elaine Armstrong, director of public relations for Goodwill of North Georgia, the career centers in the region served more than 30,000 people and helped more than 10,000 find jobs last year.
Donations can be made at the store or at one of several additional donation centers around the area, which can be found through the location search on Goodwill’s website. The store sells clothing, shoes, books, furniture, accessories, electronics, small appliances, sporting goods and other items. Although they try to recycle unusable items, donations should be in good condition and ready for them to sell. “If it’s an item you would give to a family member or a friend, it’s probably something that’s acceptable to give to Goodwill,” Armstrong explains. However, the store does have a partnership with Dell for recycling old computer equipment.
Habitat for Humanity ReStore
532 Barber St. · 706-354-0936 · www.athenshabitat.com/restore
To raise money for Habitat for Humanity, the ReStore sells clothing, household items, books and more, but furniture and building materials are its real specialties. Its vast space offers a treasure trove of furnishings for everyone from impoverished grad student hipsters to well-heeled antique hunters, including the beautiful and much-in-demand refurbishments of Lee Green, a former carpenter who first began working for the ReStore as a volunteer through the Athens Community Council on Aging.
A great resource for those who are renovating their homes or moving, the store accepts and resells doors, windows, light fixtures, sinks, toilets, doorknobs, hinges and large appliances, and it offers free pick-ups. Nearly anything but mattresses and box springs are welcome. Since 2003, the store has diverted more than 1.4 thousand tons of waste from landfills, while contributing to the Habitat mission, which is now at work on its 76th house in the Athens area.
Project Safe Thrift Store
995 Hawthorne Ave. · 706-425-8863 · www.project-safestore.org
Project Safe is a nonprofit organization founded in Athens with the mission of preventing domestic violence and helping survivors of abuse. Its thrift store not only raises money for its emergency shelter, but also allows clients in their system to come to the store for whatever they need. Project Safe offers long-term support through its Follow Up and Transitional Housing programs, and donated items help set up clients in their new living situations. For this reason, microwaves, chests of drawers, pots and pans, and towels are especially needed, explains Gwenn Carter, former floor manager of the store. The thrift store is in part “a way for donors who don’t really have money to share what we do,” she says, and the Athens community has been very supportive since the store opened in 2005.
The store also collects needed items such as toiletries, trash bags and school supplies. A full wish list can be found on its website. Unlike many stores, Project Safe is able to accept clothing that is torn or stained; pieces they can’t use are sold in bulk to a dealer. And though the majority of the clothes donated to the store are for women and children, they do appreciate clothing for men and older boys as well.
Project Safe also runs P.S. Too, a boutique thrift shop located at 1055 Gaines School Rd. that sells locally donated, gently used brand-name and designer clothing and accessories.
The Salvation Army Thrift Store
484 Hawthorne Ave. · 706-543-5350 · www.salvationarmy-georgia.org
The Salvation Army first became active in Athens in 1916. Dedicated to serving “the least, the last, and the lost,” as part of its Athens ministry it offers an emergency shelter, a food pantry and social services to men, women and children in need. The Salvation Army also operates many youth programs in the area, including a summer camp in Jasper, GA. Its thrift store has been in operation since 1979, and all proceeds are used to benefit programs in the Athens-Clarke County area. Pick-up of large donations can be arranged by calling the store.
St. Mary’s Hospice House Thrift Store
2165 West Broad St. · 706-389-2772 · www.stmarysathens.com/patient-info/thrift-store
All proceeds of St. Mary’s Hospice House Thrift Store benefit St. Mary’s hospice services, and in the past two years the store has raised more than $100,000, says Patricia Schlotzhauer, thrift store chairperson of St. Mary’s Volunteer Auxiliary. This money helped purchase supplies such as pain pumps, IV pumps and computers, and helped pay for the care of indigent patients and for costs not covered by other patients’ insurance, to name just a few projects.
Bright and pleasant, the store is filled with attractive displays of high-quality clothing and household items, as well as books, movies and art. The store also includes a room dedicated to Christmas decorations. It can accept prescription eyeglasses, which are passed on to the Lions Club, which collects and recycles them. For large donations, the store can send “Old Yeller,” a former St. Mary’s ambulance that has been stripped of its medical equipment and painted bright yellow. But even though they do sell furniture from time to time, clothes and smaller household items are their mainstays, as many volunteers are 65 or older. “Lifting is the hard part for us, but if a sofa comes in, we’ll sell it,” says Schlotzhauer.
This guide only scratches the surface of the donation guidelines of these groups, so if you choose to contribute, always call ahead about items you’re unsure of, or check the stores’ websites for details. And if you unearth unusable belongings like broken toasters or a jar of dead batteries, Athens-Clarke County’s recycling facilities can take a staggering variety of things (see http://www.athensclarkecounty.com/index.aspx?NID=1329 for a full guide). You might also dive into researching the myriad other good causes in town that accept specific belongings, such as BikeAthens or Free IT Athens. But for a big purge, nothing beats a free pick-up from the thrift store of your choice, and the satisfaction of knowing that your old things are being put to good use close to home.
[Editor's Note: We inadvertently left out Petzone Thrift Shop in our print edition.]
Petzone Thrift Shop
4530 Atlanta Hwy. Bogart, Ga. · (706) 546-8006 · petzonedogs.com/Thrift_Shop.php