CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Outside the downtown shopping district, nestled in an unassuming building on Charleston's East End, is a treasure trove of gently used loveliness. The YWCA's secondhand store, Past & Present, sits on the corner of Lee and Elizabeth streets and is filled to the brim with fashionable bargains.
Every month, store manager Erin Turner and her staff of 12 sort through 600 to 1,000 large bags filled with everything from bridal gowns to children's rompers.
The community is generous with its donations to the secondhand retail store. Frequently, the staff receives donations of clothing that still has the original retail tags.
Turner believes the community is especially charitable with their organization because the proceeds go to fund such worthy causes.
"Our clothing is all donations from people in the community who just want to support our operation," Turner said.
A nonprofit organization, Past & Present's proceeds go directly to support the Lisa McCormick Homes, which provide "transitional housing for women fleeing abuse or trying to get off the streets or out of shelter situations," Turner explained.
Affiliated with the YWCA, the store is set up to help out in many more ways than just direct proceed-donation.
Past & Present accepts clothing vouchers to help people from several different programs around the Charleston area -- including Sojourner's, Readiness Center, Resolve Family Abuse Center, Shanklin Senior Center and Empowerment Homes -- get back on their feet with a new wardrobe, Turner said.
The store also employs senior citizens who may be struggling to live on Social Security alone through a local program funded by the federal government that helps subsidize their income.
But Turner wants the public to know Past & Present is open for everyone, not just those in need of help, and it is a wonderful place to find a bargain on up-to-the-minute fashion.
"We have regular shoppers who come in after a trip to the mall and re-create the mannequin looks for a lot less," Turner said. "People are very seasonally aware. They want to see what is in the department stores, then they'll come in and start asking for specific brands and styles."
An entire outfit, with shoes and accessories, could be put together for a fraction of what it would cost in a regular retail store, all in good quality with working buttons and zippers and no tears or stains.