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Learning Through Thrifting

April 29, 2022

Norquest College partnered with The Salvation Army McQueen Thrift Store in Edmonton this March to host an experience for students who have Community Service Learning (CSL) integrated into their academic program. The program was designed to help mature students with level 7-9 math learn budgeting skills and find the connection between math and social impact. CSL Faculty Developer, Bree, realized that The Salvation Army Thrift Store was the perfect combination.

“I was wondering how to connect math to something practical while also learning about social issues and social impact,” said Bree. “Education and awareness is a great first step in terms of starting the conversation, breaking down barriers, and exposure for the store.”

Students were given an “imaginary” $50 by the college and were instructed to purchase items within that budget. Over a period of two days they visited the store with clipboards in hand and their allotted “money,” ready to start their shopping, while store managers Daniel Johnson and Adam Burke guided them along the way.

To keep the students engaged, Daniel “themed” the experience by assigning them roles that included several profile demographics of individuals who shop at the thrift store, such as someone experiencing homelessness. He asked them to think about the kinds of items someone in these circumstances might need, such as an individual regaining their independence may not have kitchen utensils, or someone who has overcome hard circumstances might need new clothing. This was a great way for students to understand how The Salvation Army Thrift Store helps those in dire situations.

“We accept each individual and each individual circumstance,” said Daniel. “And we try to help everyone every way we can, whether circumstantial, physical, or mental.”

Another takeaway from the visit was the hope that students recognize the link between math and helping organizations at large and how “math is used in different ways in different jobs,” as Bree explained. “I want students to see the value in math and how organizations use it to make a difference.”

As the CSL students learned, math, budgeting, and shopping really do make a difference in The Salvation Army Thrift Store community! When people thrift at our stores, they are thrifting for communities. The funds generated at the stores help support programs run by The Salvation Army in Canada, which is the largest non-governmental provider of social services in the country. Services and programs offered by The Salvation Army include food banks, shelters for individuals experiencing homelessness, and crises relief support.

Thrift Store locations also contribute to environmental sustainability through recycling programs. During the fiscal year of 2020-2021 alone, The Salvation Army Thrift Store diverted 70,820,221 lbs of unwanted household items and textiles from local landfills, which equals to 1,400 full recycling trucks.

“What’s important,” said Bree, “is that students can also help the organization by learning about us, becoming potential new customers, and helping to spread awareness of our organization within their own network.”  

By participating in this program, students got a chance to not only see how their dollars help those in need on a grassroots level, but also helped to establish a mutually beneficial relationship between the college and The Salvation Army Thrift Store.

We are always looking to collaborate in our communities. If you would like to explore partnership opportunities, please Contact Us.