Lost Dogs & Found Treasures: Why the LPCHS Thrift Store Matters
It's no secret: Durangoans love their dogs. It's a wonder we haven't lobbied to change the name of our hound heaven to "Durandog." While that's a really bad idea and super lame joke, it brings up an excellent question: have you ever considered where man's best friend goes when he has nowhere else to turn in La Plata County?
One of the main respites in our region for needy pups is the LPC Humane Society (1111 South Camino del Rio north of Wal-Mart). Founded 45 years ago, the LPCHS is an "open-admission" shelter, meaning that it won't turn away any animal - dog, cat, bird or pocket pet - brought to the door. With a focus on La Plata County animals-in-distress, the LPCHS houses nearly 3,000 animals each year - some coming from neighboring towns that can't support the influx of homeless creatures.
"Without the shelter, animal protection wouldn't have a place to put the animals," says Ann Morse, LPCHS Thrift Store director. "We house all of the animals from cruelty cases, animal control and owners who have to give up their dogs, if somebody's in a crisis and there's no family to take care of their pets."
The city and county both have contracts with the LPCHS to pick up and drop off animals at the shelter, in hopes that either their owners can take them back eventually or another kind soul will come along and adopt a new furry friend. Thanks to the LPCHS veterinarians and volunteers, all animals are spayed and neutered, receive medical attention and behavioral training as needed, creating an invaluable service for not only these adorable critters, but also for the city, county and community at large.
To keep raising awareness about our responsibility for all living things, the LPCHS has programs, like Mutts in the Mountains, where people can take adoptable dogs on hikes. As well, weeklong summer camps give kids opportunities to learn about the animals, walk the dogs and hang out with trainers, so that the next generation is also nurtured to care for these four-legged BFFs.
"We're so fortunate that people in La Plata County want to adopt dogs," says Morse. "The animals bring so much joy to people's lives."
Besides the contracts with the city and county, the number one source of funding for this community resource is the Thrift Store attached to the shelter. The LPCHS Thrift Store was founded in 1990 to help raise money for the shelter, and, without it, the LPCHS would need to find another revenue stream, namely, more private funding from community members.
So, apart from whipping out your checkbook, how can you help? It's actually quite simple: donate the stuff you don't want to the LPCHS Thrift Store. When you're cleaning out your closets or garages, you have a choice about where to take those unwanted goods. While it seems like all nonprofits are created equal, your choice to donate these items to a locally-owned and -operated thrift store is paramount to keeping that money in our community.
"Without donations, we don't have a thrift store," says Morse.
Morse, who used to own the Lost Dog restaurant, took over as Thrift Store director a year ago. Before it became her profession, the LPCHS was a benefactor for fundraisers at the Lost Dog because Morse has always adopted animals from shelters wherever she's lived. Clearly, she’s got a lifelong soft spot in her heart for lost dogs.
With the help of an awesome staff and quality volunteers, Morse has spent her time and energy remodeling, re-decorating and organizing the space so that the shopping experience has been greatly enhanced. Besides offering low prices on slightly-used goods, the Thrift Store is also a go-to place for, say, special supplies needed for 9-R classroom projects or props and clothing used by the Durango High School theatre troupe, like those you might've seen on stage in their recent Grease production.
And need we even mention that the LPCHS Thrift Store is the obvious one-stop-shop for all things Snowdown...?
Far beyond Durango's endless, obsessive costume needs, the LPCHS Thrift Store also serves as an excellent network for getting goods into the hands of folks who really need those warm layers or affordable kitchenware.
Working with regional nonprofits, like Manna Soup Kitchen, the VOA, Southwest Center for Independence, La Plata Coalition Center, Women's Resource Center and Alternative Horizons (to name a few!), LPCHS distributes $20 vouchers that can be redeemed at the Thrift Store. These nonprofits connect their clients with as many vouchers as they need, providing options that sometimes help folks avoid homelessness. According to Morse, the LPCHS Thrift Store gives away nearly $25,000 in vouchers each year.
And, when that torn sleeping bag or stained blanket just isn't fit to sell in the Store, LPCHS is able to re-donate these items to places, like Manna, so they're put to use by people who don't mind using a shampoo bottle that's been opened, for instance.
"Anything we can't distribute we recycle," says Morse. "Very little goes into the trash dumpster. Everything stays in the community."
In short, if you started taking your donations to non-locally-owned thrift stores, chaos would ensue across the region. Maybe that's a little dramatic, but local nonprofits would definitely feel the sting. The underserved population would suffer. And, with one less option, homeless dogs would run amuck, like we've seen on drives across canyon country.
Unlike the LPCHS Thrift Store (which solely relies on locals, like you, driving to the donation center), chain thrift stores can tap into region-wide resources so that their stores are always stuffed with goods to sell. So don't worry about the New Guys.
"We're running a thrift store, but we're also supporting these nonprofits," says Morse. "When you donate to us, the [LPCHS Thrift Store money] stays here, supporting the animals and community of La Plata County. One-hundred-percent of our profits goes to the shelter, but you're also helping the underserved population in our community. While we're here to support animals, you've got to take care of the people, too. We want to take care of the community that takes care of us."