Anyone who has ever been to the Community Closet Thrift Store recognizes the tall, imposing figure of Blackfoot. He is known by the singular name, and he is immediately recognizable by the deep voice, and the perennial cap, beard, jewelry and medicine bag. Around town, you can see him traveling with one of his hand-carved walking sticks.
While the name might suggest Native American origins, Blackfoot says that it comes from a nickname he has had since he was 14. Although he was adopted as an infant, he knows that his birth parents were from Turkestan and Siberia, and that his mother died when he was born. With his adopted parents, he spent much of his growing up years in Oregon.
He came to Livingston to visit his friend Jimbo in 2003 and stayed, starting at the Community Closet almost immediately after arriving; and soon after he became part of RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program). His service at the store includes stocking items—you may have seen him bringing bins to the floor at 10:00 on a Saturday after the morning half-price sale.
When someone buys furniture or other large items, Blackfoot is there to help. “I do the heavy lifting,” he says. “I also keep an eye on things,” he adds, referring to his role as an informal security guard. He keeps an eye on the store’s goods in other ways, testing electronics and appliances to make sure that they are working before they are put out for sale.
Blackfoot is also a wood carver, and over the years his totem poles and walking sticks have been at Livingston stores and galleries. He currently has a large piece at Chadz, and b. civilized carries the totems in many sizes. You might think that his interest in totems and his wood carving skills came from exposure to Northwest native art, but he says that he just started carving totem poles at age six. The following year, his grandmother put a mask that he carved in a Medford, Oregon store and it sold right away. Today he gets his wood “from the shoulders of the river.” He needs no external influences: “The piece is already in the wood. It’s alive. I can hear the wood tell me if it’s ready or not.”
Blackfoot is at the Community Closet every morning until noon, from Monday through Saturday. But he promotes the store all of the time, “There is [...]
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The Community Closet Thrift Store has become a true Livingston tradition, a place where anyone can find just about anything, very inexpensively.
Executive Director Caron Cooper was looking for a way to offer an even better deal to community members, and also put more already-made items back into use, when she came up with the free bin concept.
“Our inventory is free, so we can afford to be generous with it,” said Cooper. “Also, the Free Bins mean that less is hauled away as waste by the City. And people who donate items to the store can know we make every effort to put things back into use.”
Less items thrown out also means lower expenses for Community Closet, which pays a hefty garbage fee each month, and more money to distribute to the community.
Rain or shine, the Community Closet Free Bins are parked on the sidewalk near the front door of the thrift store. The plastic, wheeled containers are yet another temporary home for items which are, in philosophy, free from the earthly cares and woes of perfection.
These items are still good, and sometimes even new, but maybe not quite good enough to sit on the shelves or hang from the rack in the Community Closet environs proper. They may have even lingered too long in the store or The Annex next door.
“Mondays are the best days to browse through the Free Bins,” recommended Cooper.
On the first day of the week, clothing, books, thing-a-ma-gadgets which didn’t find homes over the weekend during the thrift store’s Early Bird Sale on Saturday, or The Annex’s most-excellent clothing markdown (.25 cents or less) on Sunday, migrate to The Free Bins.
According to Community Closet employee Robin, the staff “tries to get the bins out for the day at least a half hour before opening the store each day.” Thus, Free Bin patrons may browse in peace. Free Bins are wheeled back into the store after closing.
Free Bin Binning is an art, or a science, actually. No one has the intestinal fortitude to walk past the Free Bins without at least glancing in one of the bins. A few hardy souls stop there, but most passersby at least dig though a few items.
Some hard core visitors go through pieces in the bins, even straightening and folding clothing to help facilitate a more orderly excavation by the next Free Bin archaeologist.
The following locals were found perusing the Free [...]
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