The COVID-19 pandemic has left its mark on a Maple Ridge thrift store that, for decades, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Ridge Meadows Hospital.
Mary Holland and the executive of the Auxiliary to the Ridge Meadows Hospital and Health Centre have decided to close the doors of the Economy Cottage for good.
They made the decision at the beginning of June, and it was a hard one to make, said Holland, president of the auxiliary for the past four years.
“It’s a result of our volunteers [who] are aging out and they don’t want to return, and their families have requested that they not return to working in the public area,” said Holland.
“And we can’t get any more volunteers,” noted Holland, who has been with the auxiliary for a decade, adding that the store front is also costing them money for things like rent, phone line and electricity.
“What do you do,” she asked.
There are around 100 volunteers altogether who work a variety of jobs between the Economy Cottage and the gift store in Ridge Meadows Hospital. About 25 to 30 of those volunteers worked regularly at the thrift store before the pandemic hit, explained Holland, estimating that she’s lost about three quarters of those volunteers.
The auxiliary was established in 1953 and since then has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars throughout the years for the hospital through the gift shop and the thrift store.
Holland estimates the store made at least $50,000 per year to put towards equipment for the hospital.
But the issue of finding fresh faces to volunteer at the store has plagued the auxiliary over the past couple of years.
There have been deaths and illness and some of whom lost their driver’s licenses and couldn’t get to the shop anymore.
Holland has been inundated with regular customers who are sad that the store is closing, but, she said, they understand since the volunteers there are seniors.
“They’ve been coming here for, some of them, decades” said Holland of the customers who frequented the store.
“Their parents worked there, their grandparents worked there at some time,” she noted.
“The Economy Cottage goes back many generations in some families,” added Holland.
Holland is going to miss meeting the people who would come into the store. She is also going to miss the volunteers she worked with over the years who won’t be returning.
“Some ladies have got 40, 50 years,” with the auxiliary, said Holland.
Holland is not sure when they will be able to open the gift shop again at the hospital.
But, she said, they are in a different scenario with the gift shop because they don’t have to pay for things like rent, phone service and other expenses.
The Economy Cottage, though, meant so much to so many people, said Holland.
However, this kind of life is changing, along with the community, she said.
Remaining stock at the store is being sold at 50 per cent off until they are sold out. No new donations are being accepted.
The doors are set to close at the end of June.
Economy Cottage Auxiliary Thrift Shop is located at 22264 Dewdney Trunk Road in Maple Ridge.