Georgina’s Place, the bustling thrift shop in Hay River, N.W.T., has been a fixture of the community since the mid 1960s. It was built in the wake of The Great Flood of 1963 when the East Channel of Vale Island and the Dene Village were overcome by rising spring waters.
Today Georgina’s is an outreach ministry of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church. According to The Rev. Francis Delaplain, priest-in-charge, it is a great venue for low-cost shopping, a helpful second home for pre-loved goods, and a powerful source of community support for paying-it-forward to those in need.
“I shop at Georgina’s a lot,” says Delaplain, who came to St. Andrew’s in 2015 from a church in Yellowknife. “My nephew, who lives with us, is always losing mittens and hats and snow pants, so it is great to have Georgina’s. Sometimes we take hockey equipment, donated for distribution by the thrift shop, to the outdoor rink in case anyone needs gear.”
Hay River, located on the south shore of Great Slave Lake, is a remote community with relatively few stores, and yet there is never a shortage of donated items at Georgina’s. “All it takes is for people to clean out the house once in a while,” says Delaplain of the “mountain of bags, stacked to the ceiling” with clothing and household goods. “If you’re planning to move to Hay River to run away from consumerism,” cautions Delaplain, “you won’t escape!”
From the practical to the sublime to the ridiculous, shoppers will find a little bit of everything at Georgina’s Place.
With only one full-time staff member, Georgina’s relies on a steady group of volunteers who sort goods and stock shelves. This maximizes the shop’s revenue which funds a generous program of community outreach. “By request at Christmas we give out $10,000 to different groups,” says Delaplain, “and in the summer we do a $5,000 grant to community programs.” Recent grant recipients have included a cancer survivor support group, youth sporting programs, and community food security initiatives.
Georgina’s has also been a mighty contributor to the Anglican Foundation of Canada: giving faithfully every year for more years than AFC’s current database can count. “When I see generous cheques arrive in our mail like the one AFC receives every year from Georgina’s Place,” says the Rev. Canon Judy Rois, Executive Director of AFC, “I think of something I heard years ago, ‘There is no better exercise for your heart than reaching down and helping to lift someone up.’ Every time I open the annual envelope from the thrift shop, I am moved to tears by their generosity.”
Georgina’s Place is named in honour of The Rev. Georgina Bassett, the first Anglican priest of Slavey descent to be ordained in the Anglican Church of Canada. “Georgina died in 2014 just before I arrived in Hay River,” says Delaplain. “She is very well remembered and was a cherished member of the community.”
Delaplain says Georgina’s wish was that giving to AFC would be a priority. “Through the years the Thrift Shop has received several grants from AFC including the installation of running water, a washroom renovation, and a washing machine to clean donated clothes. The Foundation was there for us when we needed it, and Georgina wanted us to be part of replenishing that fund, not only drawing from it.” Delaplain, who now serves as an AFC Board Director, says he inherited the spirit of Georgina’s generosity as well as the spirit of the amount. “Georgina wanted the gift to AFC to be an impactful one. Now the annual gift to AFC feels like a connection point to the rest of Canada, and we are proud of the way we are able to contribute.”
Like many parish priests, Delaplain experiences the constant struggle to make ends meet. Thankfully, the thrift shop puts a welcome pause on the temporal burden: “The beauty of Georgina’s is it gives us an opportunity to think differently, to think less about paying bills and more about being generous. And that is a lot of fun.”
If you have ever received a grant from the Anglican Foundation, you know first-hand how the generosity of other Anglicans made it possible for you to reach a little further, to imagine more than you could have on your own. That’s the pay-it-forward energy at work. And it feels even better to give it than to receive it. That’s the greatest donor benefit of all!