Southern Arizona thrift store is longtime local grant giver

December 24, 2019 GMT

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A southern Arizona thrift store near Tucson seems like an unlikely source of grant money.

But what started out as a small country fair in 1964 in the small city of Green Valley has become a brick-and-mortar operation that has given an estimated $32 million in the past 55 years.

Employees at White Elephant Thrift Store said people from all over Arizona stop by daily to hunt for all kinds of items, the Arizona Daily Star reported. The 34,400-square-foot (3,200-square meter) space carries clothes, furniture, dishes, appliances and a host of other things.

The store’s board of directors makes sure schools, nonprofit agencies and other organizations in surrounding communities benefit from the bargain hunting.

White Elephant earlier this month dispersed 124 grants totaling $1.7 million, said Regina Ford, board president. The money has benefited communities from Sahuarita to Nogales. Recipients include police and fire departments, community food banks and student scholarship programs.

Sky Fisher, a regular shopper, said she has seen the benefits of the store’s donations. She was a special education instructional aide at a local elementary school that received grants over the years.

“I am a loyal supporter of this store because it does a lot of good for our community,” Fisher said.

White Elephant operates with five paid staff members and 600 volunteers. They also generate revenue online. Last year alone, the store sold more than $60,000 of finds on eBay, according to Karen Lavo, the store’s general manager.

“I get to be a part of an organization that gives so much back to others,” Lavo said. “There are many organizations and institutions that could not operate fully without our funding,”