Sign posted outside the Chemainus Health Care Auxiliary’s Thrift Shop Tuesday after the decision was made to close it temporarily. (Photo by Don Bodger)

One of Island’s most popular thrift shops shuts its doors due to COVID-19

Chemainus Health Care Auxiliary worries a long closure will mean a dramatic drop in donations

The Chemainus Health Care Auxiliary’s Thrift Shop is always a busy place, but especially on Tuesdays when people line up for bargains before opening time in the morning after it’s been closed for two days, and there’s a steady stream of customers throughout the day.

But not this week or for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Auxiliary had a meeting Monday afternoon and, with crowds in the store often exceeding 50 people, decided to follow suit with so many other facilities, businesses and organizations and close the doors until further notice.

“We just couldn’t postpone it any longer,” said Auxiliary president Diana Lenihan. “There was a lot of the volunteers who were really nervous as well.”

The drop-off area is also closed and no donations will be accepted at this time.

“Our greatest concern is the safety of our amazing volunteers as well as our dedicated customers,” read a statement from the Auxiliary.

“We had to put them first,” added Lenihan.

The COVID-19 crisis is really hitting home for a lot of people. Erring on the side of caution seemed like the logical approach to take.

“It’s not like symptoms on the whole are all that outrageous,” Lenihan indicated. “It’s just because it spreads so quickly.”

The Auxiliary pumps a lot of money into health-related causes through its Thrift Shop, topping $532,000 for the fiscal year that ended last Nov. 30.

“It is going to be horrendous,” said Lenihan. “Our donations to the health care system next year are going to be really cut back. We have no idea how long we’re going to be shut down.”

One donation of $50,000 to the BC Cancer Foundation was pending April 1. That will now be sent to the organization rather than holding a public presentation.

“I don’t know if we’re going to be able to see these kinds of numbers next year,” conceded Lenihan.

It’s a big loss, she said, in so many ways.

“The community relies so heavily on what we offer to sell. Where are they going to go and get the summer clothes the kids need?”

All the closures, Lenihan added, have been “like a ripple effect of a pebble being dropped in a pond.”

The volunteers who contribute so much time will also feel a deep loss in the short term.

“It’s so much a part of their daily lives,” explained Lenihan. “I feel very worried they’re not going to cope well.”

A little spending always goes a long way at the Thrift Shop and with items frequently costing only a few dollars, “it’s a humongous amount of volume,” Lenihan said of sales.

“People rely on that shop to get through the day and keep their budget.”


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Diana Lenihan is the current president of the Chemainus Health Care Centre Auxiliary. (Photo by Don Bodger)

The Chemainus Health Care Auxiliary is a long-standing institution in the community and its Thrift Shop raises more than a half million dollars every year for health-related causes. (Photo by Don Bodger)

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