Secondhand stores hang tough amid pandemic

While the need has increased, Juneau’s secondhand stores are staying abreast of demand as the pandemic approaches its one-year anniversary in Juneau.

The Salvation Army and the Juneau Society of St. Vincent de Paul, two of Juneau’s major broad-focus charitable organizations, have kept their stores running and even slightly profitable, despite tough times.

“We’ve cut our hours by 40% and increased our sales by 45%. I think people are trying to change their habits to reuse and recycle rather than throw stuff out,” said Dave Ringle, general manager for Juneau Society of St. Vincent de Paul. “I’d love to come to a time when the need can be handled by the generosity of the community rather than going to the city or the state.”

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Operation of the thrift store itself has changed somewhat, said Gina Halverson, Salvation Army officer, in a phone interview.

All donations are done contactless in a limited window, Halverson said. Donations are made in sealed boxes or bags, and volunteers receiving them take them directly from cars, never getting face to face with donors. All donations, which the Salvation Army asks that donors clean before handing off, are subjected to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-recommended 72-hour cleaning cycle to prevent risk of transmission of the coronavirus.

“I think people’s inability to leave town to shop means they’re looking in different places. This allows us to offer clothing people can’t find elsewhere,” Ringle said. “The fact that our store sales are higher than they were allows us to keep our heads above water and keep people housed.”

Juneau’s Salvation Army thrift store, inside shown here on Feb. 12, 2021, has been glanced but not stopped by the pandemic, a Salvation Army officer said. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Juneau’s Salvation Army thrift store, inside shown here on Feb. 12, 2021, has been glanced but not stopped by the pandemic, a Salvation Army officer said. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Food on tables

Another side of their charity is feeding those who are having trouble with food security, Halverson said. Demand and the requirements for meeting them have both expanded.

“We have people that need more. Our numbers have definitely gone up. We’re doing everything COVID-safe now,” Halverson said. “Before, people would come here to pick up food boxes. Now, we have a team that delivers the food boxes to their homes.”

While the demands are there, Ringle said, they’re able to stay ahead of the wolves through the charity of the community.

“It’s been consistent. We’re dealing with a group of people who are on the margin and that hasn’t changed, they’re on the margin,” Ringle said. “We’ve managed to have enough loaves and fishes to feed everyone that comes through our door.”

Working with larger organizations to make up donation stream shortfalls has allowed the Salvation Army to keep things moving, Halverson said.

“We work with (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and the (U.S. Department of Agriculture). There’s been a lot of food coming through there allowing us to stay on top of things,” Halverson said. “The community donations have not been as high as we’ve seen in the past.”

However, donations during the holidays, as the Southeast was wracked with torrential rainfall, were some of the highest his section heads had seen, Ringle said.

“I think people saw the need and really stepped up. When you’re in a tough situation, one of the best things that can happen is if you can do something,” Ringle said. “So many people have asked, what can they do, and they can donate.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or

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