The Depot MCC Thrift Shops

Galen Kauffmann

General Manager – The Depot MCC Thrift Shops

Published April 2024

Million Dollar Mission

Retired lawyer-turned-General Manager, Galen Kauffmann, helps The Depot reach $1M milestone

Editor’s note: In Dec. of 2023 The Depot MCC Thrift Shops in Goshen, a non-profit that has been a community fixture for nearly half a century, reached an important milestone. The Depot, in 2023 alone, reached the one million dollar mark in donations to Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). The Depot and its predecessors have donated over six million dollars to MCC since being founded in 1975, but 2023 was the first year that The Depot raised one million dollars in donations in the course of a single year.

 

Reaching one million dollars worth of donations in 2023 was a goal we had at The Depot MCC Thrift Shops, and it’s an achievement we’re proud of—but there’s no feeling at all that we can let up now, or take our foot off the gas pedal because ‘we’ve made it.’

Certainly, it’s a good feeling; the money we raise goes a long way in supporting MCC relief, development, and peace work in 45 countries, and it will make a real difference in people’s lives. But we won’t stop to celebrate or pat ourselves on the back; if anything it’s time for us to focus on figuring out how we can increase from one million dollars donated in a single year to two million.

A positive impact, every day

I worked as a lawyer in Goshen for 30 years, and when I was about to hit the age of 60 I started to think maybe it was time to do something else. I felt like during my time as a lawyer, for the most part, I was not able to make the type of difference in the world—and in the lives of others—I hoped to make.

In 2017 I retired, and not long after that the position of General Manager for The Depot opened up. I’d been on their board for seven or eight years—so I knew what a great organization it was—and I saw the job opening as a chance to do something with my time that offered the opportunity to make a bigger difference in the world.

The rest, as they say, is history. Once I began working as the GM of The Depot I started to feel like every day was one that offered the chance to positively impact someone’s life.

I still feel that way, today.

Eyes on the prize, one day—and one year—at a time

I thought it would be a big adjustment going from being a lawyer to being a GM for a non-profit thrift store. When you do something for so long you feel it becomes a part of who you are; and I felt like, after 30 years, my whole identity as a person was wrapped into being a lawyer.

But I jumped right into this and never looked back.

There’s always a lot of work to do. The Depot is separated into three different thrift shop departments; furniture, home goods, and
clothing. Our staff and volunteers work very hard to create an inviting and welcoming shopping experience, and with good results.
Clothing is by far our highest-selling item, followed by household goods and variety items. Other big sellers are small furniture, hardware, electronics, and sporting goods.

A lot of folks frequent The Depot, some on a daily basis, to find quality used items at a good price. We consistently hear from many of our shoppers that The Depot is their favorite place to shop.

In 2018 we were able to give $500,000 in donations to MCC, and at that point we started dreaming of raising one million dollars worth of donations for MCC in a single year. That was the goal that has driven our remarkable growth over the past six years, and we’ve increased our donations by about $100,000 each year since 2018 to achieve it.

The Depot houseware
The Depot MCC Thrift Shops
The Depot
The Depot
The Depot
The Depot

With a little help…

Volunteers are a vital part of our operations; we have between 350 and 400 volunteers and we literally couldn’t function without them. Volunteers are active in every aspect of the work we do; from receiving donations, sorting, cleaning, fixing, pricing, and stocking the shelves, to cashiering and every other task one could imagine.

Some of our volunteers work a couple hours a month, and some are here every day. The past several years we’ve not had to put out calls for volunteers; we get so many people who come to shop and end up inquiring about volunteer opportunities because they want to be a part of it.

Our volunteers are here because they want to be here, and if you come in here any time of the day you’ll see volunteers here who are fired up and full of energy. Some are so enthusiastic because they believe strongly in our mission, and they’re overjoyed to be a part of it. Also, many of our volunteers are in their 70s and 80s for a lot of them this is about more than volunteering—for many of our volunteers being a part of The Depot is about being part of a big family.

Never too late

There was a time after I started working at The Depot when I actually felt a bit of remorse, and sadness, that it took me so very long to get to a point like this in my life—where every day is an opportunity to work to make the world a better place. But I think Better late than never is an axiom that still holds true, and—for my part—I’m just glad this is the type of work I’m doing now.

I think it would be great if people could, with their lives, do work that moves them and is important to them, and beneficial to the world. Obviously, the world is what it is; people have mortgages to pay, they have cars and expenses and kids to put through college—people have to do what they have to do to make it.

But there’s nothing quite like working for the good of others. I can vouch for that, and I can tell you from my own experience that it’s never too late to try and make ‘working for good’ the focus of your life.

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is an Anabaptist Christian ministry and international charity that shares love and compassion for all by responding to urgent needs around the world and working for peace and justice. MCC, committed to meeting the needs of local partners and churches, works in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Caribbean—as well as in Canada and the U.S. and other parts of the world. In 2023 alone MCC helped over 55,000 people gain access to a clean water source in their community; provided education to over 19,000 children; delivered food assistance to over 200,000 people; and provided peacebuilding training to over 30,000 people. To learn more about MCC, please visit https://mcc.org/. To learn how to get involved with The Depot MCC Thrift Shops as a volunteer, visit https://www.depotthriftshop.com/volunteer/.

Written by Jake Sandock

Photos courtesy of MCC/The Depot MCC Thrift Shops