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Students, UCM Join Forces

UCM's thrift store has something for everyone

>"Don't dump it, donate it" was the rallying cry as students at George Mason University concluded the traditional school year and began clearing out for the summer.

Dubbed the "Patriot Pack Out" it was designed as a new recycling and community outreach effort providing students a practical way to donate unwanted items to charity. The prime recipient was United Community Ministries (UCM) and their thrift store at 7838 Richmond Highway known as The Back Porch.

The student items donated to UCM fueled an all-day sale at the store May 22 with discounts ranging from 10 to 20 percent off the normally low prices. "UCM and its clients are very appreciative of the donations," said Claudia Greene, UCM development officer.

The Back Porch is a UCM non-profit business venture that resells donated clothing and household items to generate working capital as well as providing training for those interested in a retail sales career. It is also staffed by a group of dedicated volunteers.

Drawing its name from its original location at the rear of UCM headquarters on Fordson Road, The Back Porch offers clothing, furniture, books, jewelry, and an array of other items at prices generally ranging from $1 to $12, according to store manager Neiman Bazarah.

"This is a non-profit enterprise. We want to give back to the community. The students at George Mason brought us 30 plastic bags packed full of used clothing," she said.

"Those who wish to donate can either bring the items to us or call us and arrange for us to pick up the items. Usually we pick up all furniture items," Bazarah said.

The store averages about 50 customers a day. Some visit several times a day. That is the case for Jimmy Jenkins Sr., who maintains a shop at the Mount Vernon Antique Mall on Richmond Highway, the site of the old "Thieves Market."

"I come in at least two times a day. This place has good merchandise and good prices. I have bought lots of things for my antique business over the past couple of years," Jenkins said.

Nancy Burns has been volunteering at The Back Porch for the past two decades. "I take care of collectibles and jewelry," she said. She was joined by Beth Parisi, another volunteer who serves as volunteer coordinator for the store.

"I also do a lot of clothes sorting such as that which came in from the George Mason students. Most of that has already been assimilated into the stock," Parisi explained.

"We would love to have a lot more volunteers. We used to have many more but people seem to be too busy today. This is also something you have to really like to do. It's not a neat and tidy type job," Burns said.

"These are two of my best and most loyal volunteers," added Bazarah. Each puts in a minimum of two days a week at the store.

The Back Porch is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. Although they are closed on Mondays they do accept donations at the rear of the store that day. Regular donation days are Monday, Wednesday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pick-ups need to be pre-scheduled by calling 703-768-7106.