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Tuesday October 19th

'We go beyond that': PTA Thrift Shop's new name better aligns with its work

<p>In November of 2019, the PTA Thrift Shop in Carrboro will officially change its name to CommunityWorx.&nbsp;</p>
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In November of 2019, the PTA Thrift Shop in Carrboro will officially change its name to CommunityWorx. 

The PTA Thrift Shop will officially change its name to CommunityWorx by the end of the year.

The change will become official on Nov. 15 during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Carrboro store, according to a news release. The decision fulfills the thrift shop’s recent agreement with the National PTA to drop 'PTA' from its name by the end of the year. 

The shop’s new name and tagline – “Youth. Opportunity. Equity” – highlight its goal to support other organizations seeking to end the racial and economic inequities that hurt Chapel Hill-Carrboro students and families, thrift shop officials said in the news release.

The new name also bridges the gap between the shop’s identity and the work it does, said Erik Valera, the shop's associate director.

“It doesn’t change the day-to-day operations or business model,” Valera said. “What the name change does is that it aligns what we do on a day-to-day basis with our name. That’s really where the misalignment was.”

The Carrboro PTA Thrift Shop was originally founded in 1952 to fund art programs for Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools, he said. People donated used items to the shop, and volunteers sold them at discounted prices, Valera said. The shop donated the proceeds to local PTAs, who distributed them to schools.

But that's not all they do. 

“As much as we do give money to the PTAs, we go beyond that as well,” he said. “Donations that come through here aren’t always sold. Sometimes they are passed on to those who are serving youth in other ways.”

The shop works with several partner organizations, such as Youth Forward and the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service to provide in-kind support. The shop also owns the YouthWorx on Main building and leases rooms to youth-focused nonprofits at below-market rates. 

According to the news release, the new brand closes out the organization’s 2010 sustainability plan and the five-year conflict it brought between the shop and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools PTA Council.

“We’d been in the same building since 1989 with no additional capital investment into the aging infrastructure, and the buildings were beginning to become unhealthy and unsafe,” Barbara Jessie-Black, the shop's president and CEO, said in a promotional video.

Since it was a small shop, Valera said, much of the merchandise had to be sold and processed outside. 

“The recession was a wakeup call,” Jessie-Black said in the video. “It was clear that our dependency on the retail revenue alone would be problematic if ever there were another economic downturn.” 

To ensure the organization could survive long term, she said, the board of directors embarked on a capital investment plan in 2010 to raise additional revenue. 

The plan had two phases. First, the shop tore down its Carrboro building and rebuilt a larger one with more retail space, a downstairs processing center and upstairs rental offices. Second, the board built YouthWorx on Main, a building with office space that they’d lease to other nonprofits for discounted rates.

This project required a lot of money, and both stores closed in 2013 for six months for construction. Expenses reduced shop proceeds to local PTAs, which prompted the CHCCS PTA Council to investigate. 

According to the council's website, the PTA Thrift Shop had typically donated around 20 percent of its revenue to local PTAs. In 2011, the shop distributed $265,000 to the PTAs, but in recent years, donations were under $100,000. In 2014, PTAs received $0. 

After failed mediations in 2017, the CHCCS PTA Council – backed by the National PTA – asked the shop to strike ‘PTA’ from its name last year to avoid confusion about the relationship between the two organizations. In July, the shop agreed.

But adopting a new brand doesn’t mean that the shop will cut ties with PTAs, Valera said.

“We will continue to give proceeds to the PTAs as we always have based on the revenue that is available,” he said. “But this also means that we look to expand our relationships so that it’s not just about PTAs, but it’s about the community that we are here to benefit.”

@vej0hns0n 

city@dailytarheel.com

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