Story and photo by Gareth Vieira

Lately, I’ve noticed a change in the atmosphere at Second Helpings on John Street. A thrift store which donates all its profits towards its parent association, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northumberland, whose offices sit on the floor above. The atmosphere can best be described as a community. In the sense that a community is a place where neighbours gather for the common good, a fellowship, pertaining to a specific local.

Being a curious type I soon discovered this wasn’t something I alone felt, but a growing feeling felt by many. A big reason for this change is Leslie Fox, the manager at Second Helpings, who, as I soon learned was described by fellow volunteers as the Wiccan Thrift Queen spinning spells of inclusiveness.

“The changes began in 2016,” she said, “After thirty-five years we thought what we really needed to engage new customers was a new look, a new appearance, to align with the overall character we wanted to achieve.”

The renovations took about three weeks and included new flooring, shelving, and a reorganization of pretty much everything. The renovations were done by volunteers. New additions like furniture, which in the past was not a priority are flying off the floors and being donated weekly.

Events Coordinator, Nancy Richardson, echoes these sentiments, adding a list of other programs Big Brothers Big Sisters has to offer, which includes the annual Bowl for Kids,  which takes place on March 4th at 4 pm at North Shore Lanes in Cobourg, and of course, the mentorship programs which place young people with older mentors, who can best fit the needs required.

“We have a long list of kids waiting, as the need for a program like this is exceptional,” said Richardson. “Some of these partnerships turn into life long friends, other times it facilitates a need for the moment, either way, this kind of mentorship has shown itself to be essential.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters Northumberland is not funded nationally so Richardson and her team must seek support locally which they have achieved by the support of the local community and from individuals and various organizations.

We have over 240 kids engaged in programs at the moment,” said Richardson. “And we are always looking for new ways to create new experiences to enhance not only the visibility of Big Brothers but enhance the lives of the kids we work with.”

Some of these programs include visits to the zoo in summer, barbecues, Power Play, which allows young people to play sports without that competitive edge we see too often. There’s also group mentorship and Senior mentoring, both held at the local schools.

While we value all our programs, reiterated Richardson, it is the feedback from the community in regard to the thrift shop that has had a positive aspect for Richardson, Fox and all the volunteers at Second Helpings.

“We now have a clientele that comes here to seek treasures,” said Fox. “Whether it be a Gucci bag, a pair of Steve Madden shoes, or a classic record or book. We have something for everyone, open to a little thrift.

And it is this change that leads me personally to return weekly, for these amazing new finds. The friendly atmosphere and the communion of laughter that spills over to everyone on hand. I have recently become a volunteer myself, and have been afforded the opportunity to be the book coordinator, which if you know me, is pretty much a generous slice of heaven. So, if you haven’t been back in awhile come for a visit, you will leave with more than what you thought you would find. You will leave with a smile and a promise of return.