Carlee Borka stacks several donations for Brett Mullis to carry into Island Thrift in Oak Harbor. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

Carlee Borka stacks several donations for Brett Mullis to carry into Island Thrift in Oak Harbor. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

Cleaning up: Island thrift stores packed with donated treasures

Whidbey’s thrift stores have seen an influx of donations during the pandemic.

With many people stuck at home for months and finding extra time inside to clean out closets and garages, Whidbey Island’s thrift stores are seeing an influx of donations.

Several thrift stores are filled to the brim with clothes, books, cabinets and all the other things people store away in their homes — and some are close to overflowing.

Habitat for Humanity Island County’s stores were open during a time when other thrift stores were closed because they sold building supplies, which led to a deluge of donations, according to Director of Retail Operations Tony Persson.

He said that the organization accepted items such as clothing and books, which it normally does not take, because so many thrift stores were closed.

Normally, the organization accepts larger items such as used appliances, cabinets, furniture, lights, art and other home items.

The increase in donations has continued. Several thrift stores said more people are donating, and people are donating more items.

“It’s quadrupled almost — and we’ve never turned down donations, but we have had to from time to time,” Persson said. “Everybody’s spent the last six months cleaning out their garages.”

Habitat for Humanity’s stores in Oak Harbor and Freeland are still accepting donations, but Persson said it would be wise if people called the stores before donating.

For example, Persson said he had just received hundreds of books and couldn’t take any more.

It changes every week, he added.

Foot traffic has also increased by 20-25 percent since May, Persson said, and certain items are flying off the shelves now compared to before the virus.

Persson said used appliances are in high demand, suggesting that the pandemic’s hit on personal finances and low supply has migrated people toward used ones.

“I really can’t keep them in stock anymore,” he said of their high demand.

Other thrift stores haven’t seen quite the increase in donations as Habitat for Humanity, but sales have stayed steady.

“We had a big surge when we first opened and then it went back down again. Now it’s going back up,” said Heather McCrea, manager at the Oak Harbor WAIF thrift store.

The Oak Harbor WAIF store is open for donations and people should call ahead to check donation times, as the store can fill up quickly.

Island Thrift in Oak Harbor has limited donations hours on two days a week, and Director Wendy Kettlewell said that levels have stayed roughly the same as last year.

The store is open Mondays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon for donations and Monday-Saturday for shopping. The staff suggests that people call ahead to confirm donation hours as it can get busy.

“It’s probably the same amount as we would get normally, but we just get it all in two days,” Kettlewell said.

“We do have a limit on donations of three to four bags or boxes, depending on how full we are,” she said.

“Sometimes we extend that. If we’re not full then we’ll take whatever people have.”

Business has remained steady for Good Cheer Thrift Store in Langley and their Good Cheer Thrift Store Two in Clinton. The actual storefronts do not accept donations but instead accept items at the Bayview Food Bank & Distribution Center from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays.

They used to be open for donations six days a week before the pandemic, Director Carol Squire said. She suggested people come earlier in the day because the center can reach capacity sooner than its scheduled closing time.

“We’ve changed the model so drastically,” Squire said.

Volunteers inspect items inside people’s cars, which can lead to longer wait times, she said.

The stores also have not seen the usual “drop off” in sales from the summer to fall, Squire said.

“Now we’re open four days a week — combined — and we’re making half the revenue that we were making last year,” she said. “So it’s worth the trade off.”

Senior Thrift in Freeland was contacted for this article but did not return calls.

Island Thrift Director Wendy Kettlewell said the amount of donations has stayed roughly the same during the pandemic as they were before, but that it’s been condensed into two days, which can lead to long donation lines. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

Island Thrift Director Wendy Kettlewell said the amount of donations has stayed roughly the same during the pandemic as they were before, but that it’s been condensed into two days, which can lead to long donation lines. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

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