Barbara Szende, the founder of the organization, in the early 90’s, due to her successful sport career was invited to live and play volleyball in the USA. Starting a new life in a new country with only two pieces of luggage is a journey with many challenging elements for everyone.
Her sponsor and lifelong mentor, a sweet lady named Ruth Eney from Florida, introduced Barbara to the wonderful world of American thrift stores. It took for Barbara only a few dollars to completely furnish her first apartment… And so her new friends and acquaintances gladly donated their unwanted furniture and appliances for the start of a new life in a new country, greatly assisting her. Sadly, Ruth is no longer with us, but Barbara will always remember her and her wisdom, for Prague Thrift Store is a tribute to Ruth’s memory and her wise life journey.
In 2005 when Barbara’s husband got a new job in Prague, the family had to relocate to the Czech Republic to experience life as expatriates in Central Europe. They soon discovered that their new home in Prague was much smaller than their two apartments in Florida and subsequently, it was too small to contain many of the belongings they had brought with them. Barbara first searched the city for a place (a Thrift Store?) to donate these extra items, with rather disappointing results. The charitable organizations on a whole did not speak English nor show any interest in accepting donated goods. Some of them was even rude on the phone with her...
Since Barbara always liked thrift stores, these negative experiences did not push her away from charitable giving ideas. While she finally managed to find a place to accept her donations, the experience created the idea in her mind that a real, full-hearted thrift store would be something unique and useful in Prague. Donating for the charitable community was not that easy back then.
Years later, this idea gained real momentum when a good friend’s husband abandoned her and their child, leaving her with a large house and too much furniture. Barbara helped her friend to sell the furniture and Thomas helped them with moving to a new smaller flat. While people came to buy items, one day one of the buyer kindly offered to leave their stuff there, since he was just going to throw it out the otherwise still usable items. This was a memorable turning point in Prague Thrift Store's life and a beginning of a long journey.
Barbara first consulted with friends: expats and czechs. Seeking advice if a Thrift Store would make sense for the community at all, in such environment. With mixed feelings and despite of some rather discouraging feedback "a thrift store would never work in Czech Republic..." Barbara still decided to go ahead. As a member of IWAP, (the International Women's Association of Prague) sent out word that she was accepting donations for all sorts of items, which she stored in the basement of their residence. The community soon started to respond. Americans who also loved the idea of having a Thrift Store in Prague. English, German and other nations, Prague Expats all encouraged Barbara to continue with her mission by opening a charity store. Not much later she was ready to open the first very small thrift store in Vinohrady.
What values a Thrift Store able to provide to the community?
The key areas: Non-Profit Organizations, People with Low income and The Environment.
Low income and no income:
Affordability and cost efficiency. People with low income, benefiting from the widely available low cost good quality second hand items, and particularly targeted public segments further benefiting from the weekly discounts. Seniors on their rather low retirement enjoying financial appreciation for their lifetime hard work. Students with low or no income get easier access to reusable items, investing in their future. Families getting more value for their money,and able to spend on others vitable for their children. We have program in place for no-income families. Store credit coupons are given to families to have access necessary items in the store for FREE. Mostly supporting mothers with children when they need the most after leaving the shelter.
The organization provides monetary and non-monetary support to non-profit partners who share this goal. By cleaning and hand selecting your donations, items in good usable conditions, are often reused for supporting people in immediate need or sold in the shop to support the organization itself. Non-profit organizations supported: mother’s shelters, homeless centre, family center and organizations with charity projects as IWAP and its charity group. The group of the non-profit partners and projects Prague Thrift Store supports is always growing and your impact is key to the help.
The other vital aspect, if not the most important impact is the enormous value it’s contributed to the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle movement for a greener environment. It is just sad to destroy things that still have use. Burning or disposing useful items wastes reusables, wastes energy and landfill space. Thrifting and particularly Prague Thrift Store not only supports Prague’s community with good quality resale items at affordable prices, but also does so via the most successful "re-using" method of our times, which is a huge step ahead of recycling, all while benefiting so many people without requiring a lot of sacrifice on the part of anyone.
Think about it: still usable items given second (or even third) life when they donated to a thrift store you support. It's an everybody wins situation. You get your old but still perfectly nice jacket (or other item) out of the closet, someone else gets to buy it affordably and share the thrill of it, and in the meantime the environment will be saved from another heavy digestible item that would take more or less a millennium for the earth to break down… When you think of your personal contribution to the green environment, think about donating to and buying things in thrift shops.