Salvation Army thrift store closing: Tough decision, but right one

salvation armyThe Waynesboro Salvation Army thrift store on Arch Avenue has been consistently losing money in recent years. That’s key to understanding why the local board of directors for the Salvation Army decided last week to close the store, tentatively effective March 31.

“Even if this operation was just to the break-even point, we wouldn’t be making this move, because even at break-even, the thrift store provides a valuable service to an underserved segment of the community,” said Teresa Gauldin, the chair of the Waynesboro Salvation Army board of directors.

“But when you look at the fact that it has been losing money, we have to focus on making sure that we’re being the best stewards of the community’s money that we can be,” Gauldin said.

The decision to close came at the end of a process that began with the board appointing a committee to review operations at other Salvation Army thrift stores with the goal in mind of trying to find out what others were doing successfully.

“We visited every Salvation Army thrift store in the region to try to get a better handle on what we could do,” said board member Harold Cook, the idea being to “see what other people were doing, to find out what their best practices were, and what we could implement in Waynesboro to try to get things back on track.”

What the fact-finding group found was that many other thrift stores are facing similar issues as to what are being faced in Waynesboro.

Other thrift stores, it became clear, through the multiple site visits, manage their tightening budgets with smaller paid staffs and more contributions from volunteers.

The decision was made locally to reduce staff through attrition, and the local thrift store has been operating with one full-time and one part-time employee in recent months.

But the effort to develop more volunteers to pick up the slack didn’t pay off to the level that would be necessary to continue operations.

“This wasn’t an easy decision at all,” Gauldin said. “We put a lot of work into this, a lot of thought, a lot of heart and soul, into doing the right thing. This isn’t an easy thing to do at all. But it’s the right thing to do.”

The focus now is on working with the community to find a new use for the building on Arch Avenue, said Jason Perdieu, the corps officer at the Waynesboro Salvation Army.

The board and staff have engaged potential local community partners in the process to try to identify that next best use for the thrift store building.

“We don’t know what that best use is, but the focus is on what we can do to facilitate finding maybe an agency that needs space, maybe needs a space to provide programming,” Perdieu said.

“Basically, if we can’t be the thrift store for the local community, what can we be?” Perdieu said.

Story by Chris Graham

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