Big bucks for The Thrift Shop of Aspen |

Big bucks for The Thrift Shop of Aspen

ASPEN ” The Thrift Shop of Aspen is aiming at a moving target in its effort to raise money to expand its cramped quarters, but that target just got a little bit closer.

The volunteer and philanthropic organization recently received news of a $100,000 grant from the Aspen Elks Lodge and a separate, matching grant of $200,000 from the Gates Family Foundation.

“I think that puts it at around $1.3 million,” said The Thrift Shop president Sue Kolbe, noting Pitkin County commissioners in November pledged a $75,000 donation toward the expansion project.

Kolbe said that the goal of the capital campaign now stands at around $2.1 million.

If that seems considerably higher than it was originally, it is. Kolbe said that the group originally estimated a couple of years ago that it would need “about a million” to add a third floor on the shop, which is next to the Aspen fire department building on Hopkins Avenue.

The Thrift Shop, run entirely by local, mostly female volunteers, sells used goods and hands out the proceeds as grants to a wide range of local organizations and causes.

According to a recent news story, the organization, which began in 1949 as a way to raise money to build a new hospital, has given away nearly $2 million over the past seven years. Some 92 percent of the money raised by the group goes to its beneficiaries.

The project to expand the store will go hand in hand with plans to demolish and rebuild the fire house next door. Demolition currently is scheduled for the coming spring.

But once the planners got to work and added in all the things required by local building codes, and then expanded the planned expansion in order to provide sufficient useable retail space to make the project worthwhile, the price tag jumped to $1.5 million about a year ago. As late as October, the goal was said to be about $1.8 million.

It has since grown a bit more, thanks to inflation and the rising cost of everything from building materials to labor, Kolbe said.

The Gates grant was just announced this week, Kolbe said gleefully, noting that The Thrift Shop’s application originally asked for $75,000. She explained that a visiting member of the foundation board, here to check out the shop, suggested the ladies ask for more after getting an eyeful of the shop’s operations and its popularity with locals.

It was a similar story with the Elks donation, Kolbe said.

“We never even asked them for a contribution,” she commented, explaining that the Elks had been giving The Thrift Shop volunteers free use of some office space from which to run the capital campaign.

But at some point, she said, the Elks decided entirely on their own that “this was something they should be giving toward,” and voted to approve the donation.

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