Several years ago I made a friend on Facebook – someone that shares my love of beadwork and flamboyantly shares her love of dolls and making things for them. This friendship is one of the main reasons I finally came out of the doll “closet” about my own collection and doll creativity. So, Sarah, thank you for giving me the courage to do that! And also, for introducing me to the concept of “creative reuse” stores.
Sarah has a store near her called The I.D.E.A Store, a creative reuse store. Creative reuse stores (also known as scrap stores or teacher resource centers) are organizations that specialize in collecting and distributing unwanted industrial and residential materials for the purposes of either turning reusable materials into creative projects, keeping these materials out of the landfills. Beyond being a source of materials, many creative reuse stores also offer art gallery spaces, kids’ parties, corporate workshops, and other programs where community members can learn more about creative reuse. As I am constantly on the hunt for unusual items and good deals on supplies at every thrift store, antique mall and flea market I visit, this idea intrigued me greatly. Surely in a town the size of Nashville, there had to be something similar, right?
Well, there is! After a short search I discovered smART Supplies, in the summer of last year. Last summer, fall and winter were just too full for me to remember to get over that direction though, so my first visit wasn’t until January. And it is AMAZING! Exactly what I had pictured and more. I am so obsessed that I made an appointment to find out more about the organization.
I met with Kyle and Laurel, and partway through our introductions Donna from Progress Inc. dropped in too. SmART is a branch of Progress Inc., a Nashvillle based nonprofit that promotes health, happiness and safety for adults with intellectual disabilities. This includes independent and communal living assistance, along with employment outreach and opportunities. SmART was started to fill a gap in the creative community here, as well as provide full time employment for 4 intellectually disabled adults. 100% of the proceeds from sales at SmART benefit Progress Inc. This twofold purpose of creative reuse and support for the community that Progress Inc. helps, makes smART unique in the world of creative reuse stores.
I love knowing that no matter how I support smART, be it with donations, volunteering time, or money, the local community can only benefit. Many of smART’s customers also use their finds to support their other charitable giving. They have customers that sew or knit for NICU patients or Dress a Girl. Local artist’s shop here for supplies and donate their works for charitable auctions and organizations. 90% of items at smART were donated from individuals or local businesses, allowing supplies that would otherwise end up in the trash to have a second life.
SmART also has periodic sales, community activities and promotions, my favorite of which are “basket” sales. During a basket sale, smART sets a price, and you can stuff as much as you can into a normal sized shopping hand basket, charging just a little bit extra if your basket is heaping or if you have items that don’t fit in the basket. Check out some of my finds so far!
If you’re like me, you tend to hold onto things that you know are useful – even though you may not be the right person to use them. Usually I keep them until I either find a friend that is interested, or move, at which point I end up dropping everything off at a thrift store donation bin or have to throw it away. I hope you will investigate your own community and see if there is a creative reuse store in your area! It will give you peace of mind that your still useful items will find appreciative homes, become new things, and you might even find a new group of like minded creative people you can volunteer and create with! I found this list of organizations around the world, and while it’s not up to date, I hope it will give you a jumping off point for your hunt. Or perhaps you already know about one of these organizations in your community and would like to share? We would love to hear from you!