Spring cleaning encourages many to raid their closets, clean out their garages and finally get rid of items they just don’t want any more. In Tulsa, you can find a new home for most any of those items by donating to one of several nonprofits that will turn your trash into someone else’s treasure while helping the organization meet its bottom line.
Assistance League President Yolanda Taylor inside the nonprofit’s Bargains Thrift Shop, which helps fund the nonprofit’s mission to provide uniforms to Tulsa-area students.
Yolanda Taylor was a customer of Bargains Thrift Shop long before she was a volunteer for the Assistance League, a 51-year-old nonprofit that helps Tulsa-area children with new school uniforms and personal care kits through Operation School Bell.
A neighbor introduced Taylor to Assistance League in 2017. “That look on a child’s face when they get a new pair of shoes … I was in,” Taylor says. Today she serves as president of the 250-member organization.
Taylor has helped her son set up his apartment with finds at Bargains. She is always on the lookout for a new pitcher to add to her collection, a gift or a piece of CorningWare’s blue cornflower bakeware, which reminds her of her mother.
Houseware is an important part of Bargains’ inventory, as well as the collection of high-end clothing and one-of-a-kind home items. A recent visit to the midtown shop spotted a Barry Bricken collection jacket with a Miss Jackson’s tag priced at $14. Across the aisle sat a set of six crystal brandy sniffers for $24. There are clothing departments for men, women and children, as well as seasonal items, jewelry, accessories and furniture.
Organized committees of volunteers sift, sort and clean literal tons of donated items Assistance League receives each year. “They cull through donations to ensure we’re putting the best things on the floor,” Taylor says. “Everything is priced to sell.”
If something doesn’t quite meet Bargains’ standards or sales niche, it heads to the “Waste Not Area,” where bins for partner organizations like Loaves and Fishes, Blue Star Mothers and Fostering Connections collect items for donation. Some get sent to textile recycler American Rags. Electronic items are sent to a local processor.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the Assistance League to close Bargains for months to ensure the safety of its customers and volunteers. “We were worried people would forget about us,” Taylor says. Rest assured, there was a line that formed out the door when the shop reopened Feb. 2.
Taylor says sales at Bargains represent “a considerable part of the budget,” which funds the organization’s uniform and personal-care kit inventory. Over the pandemic, Bargains lost 60% of its income and the organization has been doing a lot of fundraising to ensure its mission is continued.
“We must be able to pivot,” Taylor says. “There’s still the need that existed before this happened. We made a promise, and our goal is to deliver on that promise.”