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Hospital thrift store buoyed by community

Lorraine Graves   Aug-30-2018

Ursula Van Duin stands outside the heritage building—formerly Steveston United Church—that is the Richmond Hospital Health Care Auxiliary Thrift Store's permanent home.

Photo by Chung Chow


The little white, steepled church that houses the Richmond Hospital Health Care Auxiliary Thrift Store is a community icon and a heritage treasure.

Since being offered the use of it by then-owners, Dana Westermark and Sean Lawson, the society has moved in and thrived in the new location.

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The former church offers increased space, good windows, and that lovely old wooden building smell, coupled with floors that creak slightly underfoot.

The auxiliary, long a valued member of our community as a source of good stuff at a reasonable price, has an impact on the lives of Richmondites, according to Ursula Van Duin, manager of the thrift shop and president of the auxiliary: “So far, we have given the hospital over $8 million.”

“We raised $515,000 in 2017 and this year’s going to be even better if we keep on going. We’ve been doing very well,” she says.

“It’s more than just money the auxiliary offers. They also provide another 220 volunteers to help out at Richmond Hospital directly.”

In a bold move, when rent was going to rise, the society bought their building in April of 2017.

“We went from $10,000 a month in rent to $11,000 a month in mortgage payments,” says Van Duin. “The mortgage payments come out of sales in the thrift shop. It is like paying rent,” she says. They hope to pay off the mortgage in a few decades.

But with the elderly building comes its heritage designation and a foundation that needs work.

To raise the money, the organization has started to open on Sundays with all that day’s revenue going to fund the required renovations to make sure the old church and the attached hall stand for another 100 years.

Van Duin says it is a particularly good day for people who find Sundays too quiet, like the newly-single or people whose families have moved away.

“Oh, Sundays are the nicest day. I always bring some special cake or something. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere. It works out very well,” she says.

In addition to the Sunday openings, they also look for cash donations to the renovation fund.

“We have so far $488,00 in our account. Our goal is $800,000,” says Van Duin.

She emphasizes that in addition to Sunday sales, “Renovations are strictly paid for by donations and fundraising because we have the commitment to the nursing homes and the hospital.”

There is yet another way the society contributes to Richmond; while helping out the hospital and looking after the bedrock of our community, our seniors, they donate three bursaries to promising young Richmond students in health care.

This year’s recipients have just been named. Each has a long history of volunteering in health care in our municipality. Two, Harmony Sander and Ana Basic are studying towards a career as nurse practitioners, while Ada Zhang hopes to become a physician.

The Auxiliary’s thrift shop needs constant donations. Anything with life left in it yet is fair game, from that bag of knitting wool to the blender you no longer need.

And they need sales. Whether furnishing your home, looking for that perfect gift, a replacement for a lost piece of china, or rounding out your wardrobe, it’s a great place to start the hunt. It’s where the graphs of affordability and quality meet.

According to Van Duin, new volunteers, too, are always appreciated. The shop particularly needs people who can lift the furniture donated but, even if heavy lifting isn’t your thing, volunteering at the thrift shop is a chance to meet others in the community while doing good.

“We’re doing very, very well but there’s always room for improvement. We’re always needing new volunteers,” she says.

The other thing that the auxiliary’s thrift store needs from the community, according to Van Duin, is a place to call home for the few months the store has to vacate to allow for the lifting of the entire building while a new foundation is built. While the date has yet to be set, she asks that anyone knowing of a place in Steveston to let her know.

So, whether it is putting their building on a firm foundation, caring for our elders and ill, or building a firmer financial foundation for Richmond students, the Richmond Hospital Health Care Auxiliary Society looks to the future, one thrift sale, one volunteer, and one donation at a time.


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