Third break in along main road

Thrift store coordinator Georgina Bassett drags her finger across s small fish tank covered in yellow dust from a fire extinguisher, believed to have been sprayed after the building was broken into.
Angele Cano/NNSL photo

Sometime between 4 p.m. Feb. 2 and the next morning, one or more individuals broke into the Anglican church thrift store, leaving nothing but a note that said “needed a place to sleep.”

The thrift shop was closed all of last week to deal with the mess. On Sunday afternoon it was discovered the south facing window had been broken, clothing grabbed to use as a soft landing, and dust from a fire extinguisher had been sprayed every where in the front vending room.

In the back storage room, bags of clothing were pulled down from their neat piles, ripped into and  clothing was strewn everywhere. A plastic container had been used as a urinal.

“OK, if they needed a place to sleep but why destroy the place, too?” asked thrift store co-ordinator and Anglican Church reverend Georgina Bassett. “If they get caught, I hope there’s an answer to why someone would do something like this.”

Basset says the shop is church- and volunteer-run. Sixteen individuals offer their time at the store – some full-time. Although proceeds fluctuate between years, the thrift store’s highest profit was around $45,000 in one year. Money is used to maintain the shop and is donated to several community organizations including the soup kitchen, the youth centre and supportive living, among many others.

Originally begun on Vale Island, the new location opened in New Town in 1966, with the back expansion for storage added in 1979.

Business was best in the 1990s, but has fluctuated in recent years. However, donations are always pouring in. The large donation bin is full at least three times a week.

A thin film of yellow powder – sodium bicarbonate from the extinguisher – covered layers of clothing, toys, household goods and almost everything that was in the front showroom the night of the break-in. Town fire chief Ross Potter said this dust is not hazardous to health but could be a breathing irritant.

The Hay River RCMP visited the scene on Sunday afternoon but currently have no leads to go on.

Bassett said all of the clothing that was sprayed will be thrown out and the storefront will be replenished with what is stocked in the back. After eliminating the stock that was sprayed and damaged, cleaning the carpets and wiping the yellow film from the surfaces, Bassett said shelves and hangers will be replenished and it will be business as usual this week. Staff are now looking into enhanced security windows and an alarm: money Bassett said should be used for community needs, not reactive repairs.

“I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed,” she said. “It’s a shame. Our volunteers give so much of their time to the store and to people and it’s disheartening to see this happen.”

The break in is one of three incidents along a section of Woodland Drive in the past year. The first was the soup kitchen, followed by the Pentecostal Church.

– Angele Cano