August 17, 2011; Source: | Thrift stores offer low prices, quirky merchandise and, in many cases, a way for shoppers to indirectly support affiliated nonprofit organizations. A recent story on indicates that the arrival of more thrift stores in New England has left some shoppers confused about where exactly their dollars are going.

Maine-based Leeward Industries Inc. operates charitable thrift stores throughout New England. Leeward directs proceeds from the stores to a collection of 14 social-service nonprofits throughout Massachusetts and Maine, including a range of food pantries and churches. In 2010, Leeward opened a new thrift store in York, Maine, a town that already had such a store: the York Community Thrift Shop.

York resident Howard Keoppel, a long-time supporter of the York Community Thrift Shop, has questions about the new Leeward store. As he asked a reporter, “If I’m spending a dollar, how much of that dollar goes back to the community? Are they spending it in Massachusetts or where?”

Rob Werner, president of Leeward Industries, defended his organization’s practice of sometimes sending thrift-shop dollars out of state. He told that sometimes food pantries in Maine have enough food while shelves elsewhere in New England are bare. The regional scale of the organization allows Leeward to direct money to those locations where it is most needed.

What do you think?  Should the dollars raised by a charitable thrift shop always remain within the local community?—Anne Eigeman