PTA Thrift Shop grows, plans nonprofit center

CARRBORO, N.C. — Since it was created in 1952 to help generate funds for arts education in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, the PTA Thrift Shop has raised and donated an estimated $7 million to $8 million to local schools.

In December, it opened a new 14,000-square-foot flagship store in a 22,000-square-foot facility it built at 125 West Main St. in Carrboro to replace a smaller building built in the 1940s as a grocery store.

It has leased part of the new facility to three programs of the city schools, generating about $120,000 a year in rent.

And it plans to create a Nonprofit Collaborative Venture on the same site, either by renovating and expanding two existing mill houses for a total of 3,500 square feet, or razing them and building a new 5,600-square-foot facility that would house five to seven nonprofit tenants.

“Our plan is to solicit nonprofits that have aligned missions,” says Barbara Jessie-Black, executive director.

By providing the “physical and philosophical space” for them to work together, she says, the PTA Thrift Shop hopes the nonprofit tenants will be able to have a greater impact on the community.

Operating with an annual budget of just over $2 million and a staff of 35 employees, the PTA Thrift Shop also operates a 6,800-square-foot retail store at Village Plaza in Chapel Hill.

It collects donated items — including art, books, clothing, computers, computer accessories, electronics, furniture, household items, movies, music and video games — and sells usable items, generating about $200,000 to $300,000 a year that it then donates to the schools through 20 local Parent-Teacher Associations.

Those donated dollars are used to subsidize school playgrounds, science supplies, computer hardware and software, cultural enrichment programs, field trips, sports equipment, and uniforms, among other needs.

Half the donated items the PTA Thrift Shop receives are not suitable for sale at its retail stores. It either finds another purpose for 80 percent of those items, recycles them, or sells them to a third party, and discards the remaining 20 percent as trash.

“Annually, we keep 300 to 500 tons out of the landfill,” says Jessie-Black.

To finance its $4 million new flagship store, the PTA Thrift Shop has raised nearly $500,000 in the first phase of a capital campaign that still aims to raise another $500,000, and used its 1.25 acre site in Carrboro as collateral for a loan.

To help diversify its funding, the Thrift Shop has leased the remaining space in it new building to the volunteer, Head Start and pre-kindergarten programs of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

Funds from the campaign’s second phase, to begin this fall, will support the new  Nonprofit Collaborative Venture, which will provide nonprofit tenants with shared space and amenities, such as a conference room and break room.

“Our goal,” Jessie-Black says, “is to have a mix of nonprofit partners that embody the values of investing for community good.”

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