A Richland thrift shop that provided an outlet for grieving families to donate their loved ones’ items and a place where shoppers could feel good about supporting a cause will close its doors next month.
Repeat Boutique, a thrift store operated by Tri-Cities Chaplaincy, shutters its shop in the Uptown Shopping Center on Nov. 17. It has stopped accepting donations.
The announcement follows the closures of Chaplaincy’s downtown Kennewick store in 2020 and its Pasco store in 2022.
The decision wasn’t an easy one for the nonprofit that offers bereavement and hospice services, including operating the largest hospice program in Benton County and the only one serving Franklin County.
“We are not in the business of retail. … As all nonprofits know, you have to regularly go back to your mission. What’s the focus? What are we doing? Are we serving our community best?” said Laurie Jackson, chief executive officer for Chaplaincy.
Repeat Boutique’s original mission was to offset the cost of operating the hospice program, which operates at a deficit — $228,000 in 2022 and $230,000 in 2023. But it’s never been successful since it operates in the red.
“In the last five years, we’ve lost nearly $200,000 on Repeat Boutique,” Jackson said.
The Richland shop’s core volunteers who staff the store were saddened by the news as Repeat Boutique provided a way to educate the community about Chaplaincy’s services, Jackson said. In 2022, volunteers provided 1,680 hours of service.
“I love what Repeat Boutique stands for. I love having the conversations with customers. People are coming and bringing boxes of things from their loved ones who died in hospice (care) and we have been able to gently care for those things, which is another way of being able to help with bereavement,” she said.
The thrift store employs three paid workers, but turnover has been high — 144% in the last year, Jackson said. Chaplaincy has had to rely on the services of a temp agency to staff the store.
Store employees have been encouraged to apply for open positions within the agency. The store’s lease runs out Dec. 31.
Jackson said indirect costs also have taken a toll. Core Chaplaincy staff have been tapped to keep the store afloat, with the human resources department working on the store’s staffing challenges and the aging building requiring the maintenance department’s attention.
Another big expense has been paying to dispose of donations that can’t be sold in the store. Chaplaincy’s 2022 Community Impact Report noted that 61,663 items were donated last year, generating more than $312,000 in sales.
“It’s not a rational decision to keep it going if it’s not meeting the core need of our mission, and it’s losing all kinds of money even on its best day,” Jackson said.
Jackson hopes the dedicated volunteers who work at the store will “be able to take the passion that they have for Repeat Boutique and apply it to our current hospice families.”
Volunteers are critical to Chaplaincy’s work, as Medicare requires 5% of all patient contact to be done by hospice volunteers.
Jackson wants to make it clear to the community that Chaplaincy wants to keep investing in programs that support its overall mission. It reopened its palliative care program this year after closing it in 2020 due to the pandemic pressures, and plans are underway to remodel the 27-year-old Hospice House in Kennewick.
It has restructured Cork’s Place Grief Center to serve more kids and their families than ever before.
“We need to be sticking with what we’re experts in,” Jackson said.
The nonprofit will focus its philanthropy team on bridging existing funding gaps. It launched a new fundraiser in August — Bubbles and Brunch, a designer bag benefit and auction — which raised $56,000, including donations from 64 people who had never given to Chaplaincy before.
“That’s a big deal,” Jackson said.
The event will return in 2024.
Chaplaincy served 1,257 hospice patients and their families in 2022, and 1,252 adults and 333 children or teens through its bereavement program in 2022.
Go to: TCCBestLife.org.
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