The donation-receiving room at Bishop’s Attic in Soldotna is filling up.
Donations have been increasing this year, as has the community need, according to the thrift shop’s manager, Jean Warrick.
“I almost could truly say that we have doubled the donations this winter, from the previous winter,” Warrick said. “I cannot tell you how many donations we’ve gotten but they’re all appreciated.”
According to the nonprofit’s 2017 public tax records, the Christian-based organization gave $119,000 worth of donations to a number of community organizations with the goal of helping residents in need.
Alex Zerbinos is on the board for Bishop’s Attic. The board is comprised of volunteers who work to find worthy causes in the community to support. Zerbinos said in 2018, the shop was able to donate an unprecedented $164,000 worth of donations to the community.
Donations to the community come in the form of vouchers for people who might need winter boots or maybe a bed. Bishop’s Attic also donates cash to support organizations, like Freedom House. Zerbinos said the store donates about $5,000 to organizations a quarter.
“We have some people who say all they have are these tennis shoes,” warlock said. “‘I need a pair of boots. Can you help me out?’ I tell them to go pick a pair of boots out and take them. That’s fine. The idea is to help whoever.”
Board member Jackie Swanson says the store does its best to stick to their mission statement.
“The Bishop’s Attic of the Kenai Peninsula promotes Christian-based services and provides an opportunity for charitable giving and community outreach with the use of funds earned from the sale of donated items.”
The mission statement has been the same since the Bishop’s Attic was founded in 1971 in Anchorage. The peninsula Bishop’s Attic was an offshoot of the Anchorage until 1993 or 1994, Swanson said.
“I’ve been involved since 2001, so I don’t know too much about those early years, but it was always the with the same intention in mind to give back to the community with items that were donated for us,” Swanson said.
Bishop’s Attic has partnered with organizations across the central peninsula, including Love INC, Frontier Community Services, Hospice of the Central Peninsula, St. Vincent De Paul, ABC Pregnancy Crisis Center, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Our lady of the Angels, St. John the Baptist, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Kairos, The Leeshore Center, Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, Wildwood Correctional Facility.
“I think each one of (the organizations) does some good things in our community, but we’re always looking and listening for where there is a need, and encourage people to come to (the board) when there is a need,” Swanson said. “Our ability to reach out has grown. We’ve been very blessed. There’s just a lot of need in our community.”
Today, there are four Bishop’s Attics in state — in Soldotna, Anchorage, Palmer and Wasilla.
Bishop’s Attic gets donations of all kinds. From clothes to shoes, to movies and kitchen utensils, people can find almost anything they might need in the store’s aisles.
“We get everything you can think of,” Warrick said.
“Whatever your garage sale didn’t sell,” Zerbinos said.
While the store takes donations of all kinds, they have to turn away items that are no longer useable.
“We have (turned away things) before, but it’s only — sometimes if people don’t want to go to the dump they will just drop it off,” Warrick said. “If someone brings something that’s really bad and ripped up and we know we can’t sell or give to somebody, then we will say ‘no we can’t do that.’ It’s rare. People, as far as donating, are very good.”
The store runs daily specials on certain items, like on Mondays, shoes and purses are half off. Warrick said their customer base is very in tune with the store’s daily specials.
Items most needed by the community are clothes and kitchen items, Warrick said.
For residents looking to give even more, Warrick said Bishop’s Attic is always looking for volunteers.
“I wish there was a way to bring in more volunteers,” Warrick said. “There are so many things they could do.”
Bishop’s Attic isn’t the only thrift shop seeing an increase in donations. A representative from Kenai’s Curtain Call Consignment said they’ve seen an increase in donations in the last few weeks. In Seward, thrift shop Ukanuzit has seen a small increase too. Ukanuzit co-owner, Melissa Houselog, said a handful of people have come in after watching the popular Netflix series “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” which is based off Kondo’s best-selling book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” The book and show encourage people to look at the items in their homes and to only keep the things that spark joy.
“We have had customers come in and tell us the items they are donating are from watching that show,” Houselog said. “In short, we have had donations because of that show but I wouldn’t say it’s been super crazy. The show has definitely made a few people ask if their stuff is sparking joy.”
Whether residents are cleaning house, or finding what items spark joy, people are purging their homes and the community is reaping the rewards.