“My name is Gail Avender and I’m co-owner of the Vancouver Island Thrift Department Store, with my sister Leanne Clark, and Tim McKay who is a good friend.

We are a for-profit business, but we work with 17 different charities in the community. All of the merchandise is donated. We keep track of the bags of clothing that are coming in, and the profits are divided up between the charities as a percentage.

The survival rate of cooperatives is over 50% higher than that of private companies.

When we first started out we had a lot of people phoning offering to donate stuff to us, which we just stored in our carport here and it just filled up and filled up and then we finally got a store. And our sales have increased really well, enough to actually make a profit for the charities.

We came up with the idea of creating a thrift store but having it more like a department store. We have something for everyone in the store, from low income to mid-income people in the downtown area. People in need can actually come into our store and we do help them with clothing, food, furniture, all different kinds of things.

Social cooperatives help the community by both hiring and serving at risk groups.

We work with the different schools in the community to do CAPP programs for students that need their work experience hours. We work with the restorative justice system, for kids that are in trouble, so they can come in and do work experience and community hours in our store. We’re also an emergency response supplier, so if there was a natural disaster here, we would supply the community with whatever they needed.

This was a big risk, but I think it wasn’t as scary as we initially thought. We went for the lowest possible start-up fees. We each had assets that we could use such as savings along with getting personal bank loans.”