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Making an Impact, Curbing Waste with Used Clothing and Furniture

By Marina Jokic

The idea for creating lasting impact through supporting multiple charities materialized in 2001 thanks to the efforts of Paul Baur, founder of Impact. "If a thrift store could support one charity, why couldn't it support many?" That was Baur's reasoning that bore the concept for Impact Thrift Stores.

By December 2001, Impact had successfully incorporated, receiving its 501(c)(3) status, establishing a board of directors, purchasing a warehouse and filling it with gently used donations. Foremost among its goals was to provide affordable clothing and furniture to everyone in a first class shopping experience. The business commenced in the old Santerian's Department Store building in Hatboro.

The expansion of the store was pretty swift. Nearly 15 years later, Impact Thrift Stores operates five retail stores, two warehouses, a fleet of trucks, and 240 employees, points out Garber. The primary mission of the organization being the financial support of local charities, Impact provides regular aid to fifteen locally based charitable organizations.

Since its founding, the nonprofit has donated more than $2,000,000 to its charity partners. Some the charities that have made Impact's list include Chosen 300 Ministries, Boys & Girls Clubs, Bethany Christian Services, Lakeside Educational Network, and Young Life-Montgomery County.

For those interested in visiting, the original Hatboro store is still operating on East Moreland Avenue, while the four others are located in Montgomeryville, Bristol, Feasterville, and Norristown.  The Norristown store will move in August from its current location in the Norristown Centre to a larger, newer building in the same shopping center.

"We can't accomplish our mission without the community's support," says Gray Wirth, president and CEO of Impact Thrift.  "Our neighbors shop, donate, volunteer and are employed at our stores.  By donating gently used clothing, household goods and furniture and by shopping in our five thrift stores, they enable Impact Thrift Stores to touch more lives than ever," he adds.

As part of its environmental stewardship mission, Impact responsibly recycles unsold clothing and furniture. Garber indicates that since 2012, the organization has responsibly recycled more than 9.3 million pounds of clothing, metals, books and household items that could not be sold in our stores.

Keeping such materials out of landfills has been a tremendous environmental achievement. Promoting the principle of purchasing used clothing and other household goods is essential in educating the public and reducing unnecessary waste. In addition, last year Impact Thrift welcomed 986 volunteers who completed 19,559 hours of service, helping the community go forward. 

Garber notes that currently, Impact is in the midst of a three-year "Increase Our Impact" Capital Campaign. The campaign will expand the stores' scope by being able to serve another 1,000,000 residents annually by 2018, in addition to the 700,000 people already helped by its services.  

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About The Author

Marina Jokic holds a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College in Russian and East...

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