A vintage sweatshirt bought at Philly AIDS Thrift benefits more than just your fashion cred.
For more than eight years, Philly AIDS Thrift has been making a difference in the HIV/AIDS community in Philadelphia. Last month, the thrift store surpassed $500,000 in donations to AIDS organizations since its founding. To celebrate the donation milestone, Philly AIDS Thrift hosted a three-day sale event at the end of last month.
The proceeds from Philly AIDS Thrift, or PAT, go to the Philadelphia AIDS Fund. With monthly donations, PAT helps the AIDS Fund distribute the money to help more than 30 HIV/AIDS service organizations throughout Philadelphia.
PAT’s donations aren’t only limited to the Philadelphia AIDS Fund; it also gives generous donations to the Mazzoni Center’s annual coat and gift drive and to the Feast Incarnate Homeless Program in West Philadelphia.
“This store is helping a cause, which is rare for a thrift store or any store to do,” said June Tucker, an avid shopper at Philly AIDS Thrift for roughly six years.
Philly AIDS Thrift started in 2005 as a small thrift store at 514 Bainbridge St. After a year at the Bainbridge location, Philly AIDS Thrift moved to an expanded space a few doors down. When PAT started to out grow that space, the store moved to its newest location in Queen Village. After moving to the newest location in 2011, donations to the AIDS Fund went from $8,000 to $15,000 in just a month.
This isn’t your average thrift store – the majority of the people who work at PAT are volunteers. Clothing processors Jennifer Joseph and Raven Crum both started as volunteers before being offered positions at Philly AIDS Thrift.
“I started volunteering at Philly AIDS Thrift because I needed something to do and enjoyed shopping here. I was offered a position to be a clothing processor and I love it,” Joseph said.
Like Joseph, Crum became a part of the PAT family for the same reasons.
“Deciding to volunteer here a year ago was one of my best decisions,” Crum said. “I love the store and all the different people you get to encounter on a daily basis.”
Joseph and Crum do most of their work where every donation is sent before being placed in the store. As clothing processors, they sort through all the donation bags and decide what stays and what goes. This is no easy task – on an average day more than 50 bags are donated to the store.
“We have the ability to be selective because of the volume of donations we get, and we want to sell the highest quality of clothing,” Crum said.
While the amount of items offered at PAT may seem grand, Crum insists that the store preaches quality over quantity.
“Most people would say an item is good because of the brand, but we look at the value of the clothing,” Crum said. “If someone wore a shirt more than five times then the quality of the item may not be good enough to sell.”
Though not everything can be sold, Philly AIDS Thrift works with a company that buys the unsellable items by the pound and then recycles the clothing into something new.
“It breaks my heart to send clothing into the giveaway bin, because it will be sent to be chopped up and turned into stuffed animal filling,” Crum said.
Not only do these two make the deciding factors about which items you’ll see in the store, but they also manage volunteers.
“When people hear that you work at a thrift shop, the volunteering aspect doesn’t pop in their minds,” Joseph said.
On average, there can be more than 100 volunteers a week.
From young teenagers to older, retired people, there is never a limit on age to be a volunteer at Philly AIDS Thrift. The volunteers run the retail aspect of the store.
“We try to keep people busy but having fun at the same time,” Crum said.
Since opening in 2005, PAT has grown into a store for all types of customers. It’s not just a thrift store for those who want clothing, but also for the music junkies, the book lovers and those on a hunt for vintage furniture finds. Philly AIDS Thrift continues to be a thrift store full of hidden treasures at a low price, but, more importantly, a thrift store that is committed to benefiting AIDS organizations in Philadelphia.
Philly AIDS Thrift operates seven days a week and always accepts donations of any good condition items. For more information, visit the store at 710 S. Fifth St.
Christasia Wilson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org