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Thrift Store Receives Student Hiring Grant

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Student volunteer Keona Sturby and MCC Thrift Store acting general manager Gerald Loeppky. Brenda Sawatzky

In a recent visit to Niverville, local MLA Ron Schuler took a few moments to voice gratitude for everyday community heroes and announce several provincial grants that have been awarded to some of those heroes.

Among the recipients was the MCC Thrift Shop, a non-profit organization that was founded on volunteers. This year, the thrift store will be receiving nearly $24,000 from the province’s Urban/Hometown Green Team Program to fund the hiring of five student workers.

“We, as elected officials, are supposed to lead,” Schuler told those gathered for the announcement. “But you are really the unsung heroes in all of this. So this is a recognition of all of you who put in the time and effort. Whether you’re paid staff or volunteers, thank you for what you do for this community.”

Geoff Townsend, Niverville MCC board member and volunteer, was on hand for the grant announcement.

“Many people [working at the thrift store] are in their senior years and they bring a tremendous amount of experience with them,” Townsend said. “This [grant provides] a great opportunity to pass that on. We [seniors] are not going to be here forever and a day. So it’s always good to be able to train other people.”

Gerald Loeppky is the acting general manager for the store. He says that this will be the third consecutive year that the shop will benefit from Green Team grants.

Faced with the dilemma of thrift store volunteers aging out, coupled with concerns for these vulnerable seniors in the face of two years of pandemic, the board applied for and was honored with the first student hiring grant in 2020.

“With the uncertainty of [our seniors’] ability to volunteer, we reached out for opportunities to get our young people involved,” says Loeppky. “So, in May of 2020, [students] became a significant part of our workforce.”

Loeppky says that the timing couldn’t have been better. Not only were the senior volunteers concerned with the implications of COVID-19 on their particular demographic, but the pandemic also increased volunteer workload due to the need for extra cleaning and sanitizing, as well as monitoring customer capacity in the store at all times.

Along with Green Team sponsors, the store has also partnered with Providence University College to bring in 14 students who each volunteer 30 hours per semester. As well, students from Niverville High School are volunteering here to garner extra credit.

Perhaps as significantly, the MCC Thrift Store has partnered with the Niverville/Manitoba Justice Program to provide work options for offenders to work off their fines through community volunteer service.

“We continue to rely on our senior volunteers, as they are a terrific support and resource for the thrift shop,” says Loeppky. “They continue to be the backbone of this business. However, we have partnered with more young people each year in order to be a successful thrift shop.”

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