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Powell River Health-Care Auxiliary Economy Shop makes a move

Thrift shop now in bigger and brighter space
DEVOTED HELPERS: Staff at Powell River Health-Care Economy Shop [from left] Connie Stewart, cashier, Betty Dice, 25-year volunteer, Roseann Pagani, cashier, and Ian Burke, Powell River Health-Care Auxiliary president, are part of a large volunteer workforce integral to the busy store’s operation.

Powell River Health-Care Auxiliary Economy Shop (PRHCA) opened its doors at a new location on Tuesday, February 9. Totalling 6,550 square feet, the new retail store at 6-7030 Alberni Street in Westview Plaza is 25 per cent larger than the old venue, allowing for a greater amount of merchandise to be on display. It also provides more workspace for the 120 store volunteers who cover two shifts per day, five days a week.

“We’re modernizing,” says Ian Burke, president of PRHCA. “It’s newer, brighter and cleaner.”

New, convenient options for customers include acceptance of furniture donations and debit machines for purchases. Previously, cash has been the only accepted form of payment.

“We’ve never had a debit/interac-card point of sale,” says Liz Craven, a PRHCA director and 21-year volunteer at the shop. “It might not be ready right away, but we hope to have them as soon as possible.”

A grand opening from 10 am-4 pm on Saturday, February 20, will feature special sales, free draws, balloons and other surprises currently being planned. Most of the inventory has already been moved into the new location.

“Anything left over that we can’t take to the new store will be sold in the old space,” says Lorraine Stokes, shop co-manager and PRHCA secretary.

The clearance sale, next door to the new shop, takes place Saturday, February 20, and Monday, February 22, through Friday, February 26, from 10 am-4 pm each day.

Since opening at Westview Plaza in 1993, the shop has generated more than $5 million for distribution in the community. Originally called Women’s Auxiliary when it was formed as a non-profit organization in 1945, its name was changed to Powell River Hospital Auxiliary in 1967, and then became PRHCA in 2003.

“Overall, it’s probably close to $6.5 million over 70 years,” says Ian. “In the old days it was a few dollars at a time, to the hospital, when the auxiliary was operating a gift shop in the hospital and a small thrift store.”

In 2003, a constitutional change within PRHCA allowed for donations to be made throughout the Powell River area. In 2012, Willingdon Creek Village received the largest single donation of $877,460. Funds were directed toward outfitting the building with equipment, beds, tables, chairs and televisions.

Other organizations receiving support include Powell River Therapeutic Riding Association, Meals on Wheels, Paddling for Life, Texada Island Health Centre, Powell River Search and Rescue, Powell River Mobility Opportunities Society and Powell River Action Centre Food Bank.

“The funds we raise support the community now, not just the hospital,” says Lorraine. “That’s why people want to come and help. All our members are non-paid volunteers; every cent goes back into the community.”

PRHCA provides complimentary television service to all patients in the hospital. Along with operating the economy shop, PRHCA provides staffing for a hospital gift shop and Red Cross Loan Cupboard. It also operates Candy Striper/Cadet programs and a patient escort service, which provides transportation within the hospital, as well as mail, earphone, water and flower deliveries. Volunteers also restock and refresh magazines in all hospital waiting areas once per week and the handcrafters crew knit, crochet, sew and quilt items to sell in the gift shop, which also has a vast array of other new products for sale.

“Our organization has 228 members right now,” says Ian. “We are always recruiting, because people get sick or go on holidays.”

Volunteers come from all walks of life. Everyone is welcome to become a member.

“There was a misconception for a long time that you had to be involved in the medical profession, belong to certain churches or be a certain age,” explains Liz. “Anyone can join, it’s just a bunch of people working together for health care.”

People are encouraged to visit the economy shop to apply. An application form is also available online and at the hospital gift shop.

For more information about PRHCA or the Economy Shop, call 604.485.0110, go to, or like the organization on Facebook.