Chester-Andover Family Center in Chester is one of the participants in Southeastern Vermont Community Action’s (SEVCA) new Thrift Store Network.
Robert F. Smith/The Commons
Chester-Andover Family Center in Chester is one of the participants in Southeastern Vermont Community Action’s (SEVCA) new Thrift Store Network.

SEVCA forms new partnership with area thrift stores

Collaboration will help fill a void left by closure of Good Buy stores in Bellows Falls, Springfield

The closure of Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) Good Buy Thrift Stores in Springfield and Bellows Falls leaves what could potentially be a huge hole for helping financially struggling individuals and families get necessary clothing, furniture, and household goods.

To prevent that outcome, SEVCA has announced the implementation of a new partnership with thrift stores throughout Windham and Windsor counties.

Stores participating in the Thrift Store Network voucher program, which started Jan. 1, will honor SEVCA-issued vouchers given to qualifying community members who will be able to access free clothing, furniture, and housewares in their neighborhoods.

Participating stores will also direct customers to other establishments in the network that have the products and services that they need. For instance, not all stores will carry children's clothing or furnishings, while other stores might specialize in those products.

Can a good network be better than a good store?

In some ways, said Christopher Meyer, SEVCA special project and community outreach coordinator, this new approach might be an improvement.

While SEVCA's stores and other local thrift shops have worked mostly independently in the past, these changes have caused SEVCA to create a network for the remaining thrift stores in the region - one that will offer vastly improved communication.

"I think we're going to find that sometimes a good network can be better than a single good store," Meyer said.

As SEVCA prepared for the closing of its stores, it worked with Black River Good Neighbor Services in Ludlow, the Chester-Andover Family Center in Chester, and the Community Closet at Immanuel Episcopal Church and Busy Bees, both in Bellows Falls, to take up the slack.

Meyer said that SEVCA anticipates several more stores will join this group. Up to date information will be available on SEVCA's website and on its Facebook page.

In an interview in December, prior to the closing of the Good Buy stores, Meyer added that two crews and two trucks would be delivering products and equipment from the closing stores to the other local thrift shops, making sure "to keep the things we have in the communities we serve," he said. That would have included everything from the inventory to shelving and racks.

Nancy McAuliffe, a volunteer at the Community Closet, said in December that her store had already begun working with Busy Bees, which specializes in new and used children's clothing. The Community Closet will focus on clothing for adults and was starting to transfer its children's clothing inventory to Busy Bees.

"The various shops have already started helping each other," McAuliffe said. "We've been sharing our merchandise and racks."

Meyer said that developing the network has opened other means of cooperation.

SEVCA, which has a highly trained weatherization crew, is working with the Community Closet in alleviating some moisture problems there - a project that it might not have had the resources to do on its own.

In a press release, SEVCA noted that it has operated thrift stores in Windsor and Windham counties since 1970 with dual purposes: to offer low-income community members access to free and low-cost furniture, housewares, and clothing, and to be a locus of economic development.

This new network allows shoppers utilizing vouchers to choose where they go to meet their specific needs, and the program also holds the potential to bring income to local small businesses.

"No one is happy that we are closing," Meyer said. "But the reality is what has happened to nonprofit funding following Covid. A lot of money was available when Covid was hitting, but that has really fallen off since this past March."

The flooding in July 2023 "has also aggravated the situation," Meyer said.

Local thrift shops have also served as an important community resource for people seeking to make donations of new and well-used clothing, housewares, and furniture.

People wishing to donate will eventually be able to check the SEVCA website and contact individual stores regarding what they will accept, where they can take donations that they may not accept, hours of operation, and other information. That information was not available on the website at press time.

Meyer noted that one of the most difficult parts of the SEVCA stores closing has been the loss "of the amazing staff and volunteers that we have had working at these stores for years."

He added that personnel lived in the towns the stores served - a key element for the thrift stores' effectiveness.

"We again would like to thank our community for their long and loyal support for SEVCA Good Buy stores, both as shoppers and as donors," said Kathleen Devlin, the organization's special projects administrator, who served as interim executive director last year.

Josh Davis, most recently the executive director of Groundworks Collaborative in Brattleboro, began work as executive director on Jan. 1.

For more information, contact SEVCA at 802-885-7074 or visit

This News item by Robert F. Smith was written for The Commons.

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