It’s important where we live and why. At the Crozet Gazette, we listen when you talk about the people, places and institutions that are a meaningful part of Crozet’s way of life. One name that always comes up is The Green Olive Tree, a unique non-profit thrift store that’s entirely run by volunteers and supports a number of local and regional charities.
This article is 13th in a series.
It’s a perfect fit for those who make New Year’s resolutions like removing clutter, stepping up recycling efforts, and showing compassion for people who struggle. The Green Olive Tree has served Crozet for 42 years, helping everyone to carry through on those good intentions.
“Think of us as a recycling center,” said Jo Ann Perkins, long-time board member and Green Olive Tree treasurer. The shop’s presence in Crozet benefits the community in at least three ways. Besides offering a convenient destination for unwanted objects, the shop also makes it easy and affordable for families to outfit their children, equip a home, or pick out a perfect gift.
Almost everyone shops there, at least occasionally, drawn to the well-thought-out displays and cheerful staff as well as the low prices. There are often people waiting in line on “bag sale” days, when shoppers can cram as many items as will fit in a grocery bag for $10. Bag sales are usually on the third full week of every month, but people watch for pop-up bag events.
The volunteers hear from the schools, social services and other sources when someone is in urgent need and arranges for them to shop without charge, said volunteer and board member Janet Martin. She noted that, although the store is a Christian charity, people of all religions are invited to shop there.
The Green Olive Tree benefits Crozet in a third way. Perkins estimated that at least $1 million has been returned to the community in exchange for its outgrown clothing, unused appliances, and excess jewelry. Over the years, the board has channeled donations into vital emergency services as well as to charities that serve the sick, the poor and the homeless. Typically, they decide on the recipients every year and parcel out the payments each month, depending on how much they’ve taken in.
That amount is lower this year because of the pandemic and resulting restrictions, Martin said, but they’re still able to provide a great deal of community support. Like shrewd business people everywhere, The Green Olive Tree board members have learned how to make the best possible use of their inventory. There are some items that are either too large for the shop, not of much local interest, or that will command a better price from another outlet. Sports equipment is a good example, Martin said. “Most people wouldn’t come here for tennis rackets and other sporting goods.” Volunteers have learned that putting these items on consignment at a used sporting goods outlet will enable them sell faster, and for a better price.
The same is true for gold and silver, as well as gold and silver plate. These are liable to bring more when sold directly to a precious metal buyer, Martin said. Nothing is wasted: the board works with other charities to make sure every single donation provides the most benefit. Books might go to charities that promote reading as well as to individual buyers. Animal shelters are glad to get worn out sheets and towels; and clothing too worn to be of service is sent in bundles to the “Equipping the Saints” storage facility in Verona.
The venerable organization has also entered the world of virtual marketing, and single items of special value are featured on the store’s Facebook page, with good results. They’ve had amazing success, but they’d like to do more, Martin said. They’ve outgrown their present building on Three Notch’d Road and, at any rate, the structure is scheduled for demolition in a few years.
“So, we’re looking for a new home,” Martin said, but she admitted the requirements are complex. “We need lots of space, but it’s also important for us to be accessible, with plenty of parking and an easy way for people to drop off goods.” It goes without saying that the space should be affordable in order for prices to stay low. The Green Olive Tree has a building fund, but for now, they’re looking for a suitable rental.
A larger space would improve their service to the community, Martin and Perkins agreed. They’d love to be able to accept furniture and other larger items. Since the store has become somewhat of a community center, with people stopping by every day, they would love to enhance that aspect. “It would be wonderful if there was a visiting area where people could sit and talk,” Martin said. “People tend to do that anyway, at least before the pandemic.”
That’s not all that’s on The Green Olive Tree’s 2021 wish list. “We need more volunteers,” Martin said. “We have great ones, but so many of them are older than 70. We need younger people.”
They’d also like for people to think twice about what they put in the bags and boxes they drop off. “Look at what you donate,” Martin said. “Would you buy it in the condition it’s in?” Housewares, seasonal clothing, accessories, and small kitchen appliances that are in working order are good sellers.
The community shows its love with its support, whether by shopping or donations, and fans also slip notes into the comment box. A few recent ones: “Love everything about this store! It is truly a treasure for Crozet” “Absolutely love this spot!” “It is a joy being served by your volunteers.”
The Green Olive Tree’s hours during the pandemic are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday,11 a.m. to 4 p.m.