Donations and deals at Dartmouth thrift store

Sep 17, 2020

Dartmouth’s Friends of the Elderly Thrift Store is back in action and open to the public for the first time since the pandemic struck in March.

The volunteer-run shop — which takes up two buildings next to the senior center on Dartmouth Street — will be open just Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon instead of the usual five days a week due to coronavirus.

On Tuesday morning, a handful of residents browsed the eclectic collection of clothing and items — everything from furniture and sports equipment to tchotchkes and jewelry.

Volunteer Christina Crofton, who has helped manage the store for over a decade, said that all proceeds will continue to support the community and Dartmouth’s elderly residents.

She said that the thrift store started off small around 15 years ago. 

“It started with just one little area in there,” Crofton noted, pointing to a corner shed. “And then over the years we’ve knocked down walls, kicked the maintenance guy out of the garage...and so we’ve expanded all the way to the end of the building.”

According to Crofton, the shop has no further plans for expansion — although some of the proceeds went to build new garages at the senior center “to replace the one that we stole,” she said with a laugh.

Due to the pandemic, the shop has had to change some of its policies as well as its hours of operation, with staff wearing gloves to sort through donated items.

“We’re asking that people bring just a couple of bags at a time now,” Crofton said. “We used to get truckloads, and we were just completely overwhelmed.”

And even before Covid, she noted, the store asked that everything donated be clean. 

“I made up [new rules], because I was sick of getting stuff that was disgusting,” said Crofton, reading from a posted sheet, “‘All items must be free of rips, stains, mold, dust, dirt, pet hair, and smoke.’”

“We don’t have a washer or dryer,” she added. “It should be clean when it comes to us.”

Ten years ago, Crofton was a customer herself. 

“I came here once with my sister, and we went into the was a really small store, and they were selling things for a nickel, or a dime,” she remembered. “And I said ‘This is ridiculous. This is a gold mine. This could be so much more.’”

“So I just started volunteering, and then we just ended up changing it and making it bigger and better and bigger and better. And we still sell most of our clothes for like two or three dollars.”

Several people were perusing the goods on Tuesday in search of a good bargain, including George Frias — “I live right across the street, so I just walk over,” he said — and Bronson Collins, who works in maintenance at the Council on Aging.

“I come down here and check what they’ve got,” said Collins. “Every once in a while I find something.”

Crofton said that the best parts of running the thrift store are helping people who need it — “We sell infant clothes for 50 cents,” she said — and reusing old items.

“It’s just great because we’re recycling, keeping things out of the landfill,” she said. 

Ripped or stained fabric is sold by the pound to Planet Aid for recycling, and they even have a guy come to collect and recycle scrap metal, too.

“We mostly try to recycle everything we can,” she said.

“It makes me feel good it’s open,” said Deanna Costa, who lives on the Dartmouth/New Bedford line and said she often used to go line dancing at the senior center. “I love it.”

Costa bought a brown scarf, which she said would look nice for the fall. 

“These people are lovely here,” she added. “I hope [the senior center] opens soon —  it's boring. I mean, what are you gonna do? No exercise, no luncheons, nothing.”