GLOVERSVILLE-When many people think of thrift or second-hand stores, they will often think of low-income residents who shop there, but places like the local Salvation Army for the last 35 years have provided services for all walks of life.
"To me, it's no longer my job but has become my life," said Nancy LaFountain who took over the store from her mother 23 years ago.
"Every bag of clothes that comes in here is an opportunity to give something they didn't have or make their life better. Knowing that we can provide items that will improve one or several people's life is what makes this job so great," she said.
The Salvation Army Family Store, at 43 W. Fulton St., today marked its 35th year of serving the city. Everything in the store will be marked down to 35 percent off, and there will be a variety of door prizes and giveaways throughout the day, LaFountain said.
The private, nonprofit organization opened the store on Sept. 5, 1978, with just two employees, including LaFountain's mother Cookie Quackenbush.
Originally occupying just a small part of the building, the store increased to fill the first floor and employ 14 people.
Quackenbush said it was always her dream to keep the shop going and pass it on to her children.
Over the last 35 years, the store has seen a variety of changes, besides growth. It has new, energy-efficient lighting, new flooring and paint and soon will have a new sign. It also has longer hours, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., accommodating customers who work during the day.
The shop has become one of the area's largest clothing stores, with its racks holding thousands of articles, including dresses, skirts and suit coats, men's and women's jeans, T-shirts and sweaters, and footwear.
But over the years, the store has been carrying more than just clothing.
The back room is dedicated to all kinds of furniture, including chairs, bed frames and mattresses, sofas, televisions and lamps. The Salvation Army today even sells decorations, books and dishware.
The Salvation Army originally began its thrift operation in London in the 1880s when Salvation Army church members discovered homeless men sleeping under the London Bridge. The men were brought into a shelter and given food and clothing. To pay their own way the men would wheel push-carts filled with old clothes through London's streets, selling along the way. By the early 20th century, the army began to occupy retail storefronts.
Today the store's inventory comes entirely from community donations, LaFountain said. She said donations should be dropped off during normal business hours.
She said those with larger donations can call to arrange for a Salvation Army truck to pick up items at their homes.
LaFountain said nationwide, the Salvation Army processes 6 million pounds of clothes a year - or 18,000 garments a day.
If a donor requests items remain locally, workers immediately prepare them to put them on the sales floor. Otherwise, everything left at the store is taken to the region's central warehouse in Albany, where workers sort and tag each item.
LaFountain said the store also accepts Social Services vouchers and has have provided items to families who have lost their possessions in fires.
But the purpose of the store is to fund the organization's adult rehabilitation center in Albany, which serves about 50 people with drug, alcohol or other issues, LaFountain said.
"We help anybody," said Capt. H. Don Sanderson, who is in charge of nine stores across the Capital District. "People that shop here get a good deal with inexpensive prices and there is something here for everyone."