By SANDI GOLDFARB

Each year, scores of savvy shoppers are doing well by doing good at Big Blue Bargains, the thrift shop created to support enrichment activities at Swampscott’s five public schools. Founded in 2012 after two years of planning, Big Blue Bargains has already generated more than $100,000 for age-appropriate performances, panels and programs.

Volunteer Michele Dove organizes the racks of clothing in the shop.

Volunteer Michele Dove organizes the racks of clothing in the shop. | Photo: Paula Muller

Tucked inside Swampscott Middle School, the shop provides the public a great way to reuse, recycle and repurpose everything from antiques and accessories to household goods and sports equipment, keeping gently-used items out of the waste stream.

Gretchen Wollerscheid, treasurer of the Big Blue Bargain’s board says that customers visit the shop from around the North Shore and beyond. “We’ve had shoppers come from Lynn, Salem, Peabody and even Lexington,” she said.

In addition to young people hoping to furnish their first apartments, teachers often come in search of books for their classrooms. Big Blue Bargains also contributes clothing and housewares to local families in need, as well as warm coats and boots to agencies serving children and families abroad and clothing to nearby homeless shelters.

Board member Jen Townsend, who coordinates with the local schools and PTAs, highlights the diverse offerings that Big Blue Bargains support. “We’ve brought theatrical performances such as The Pirates of Penzance and the Museum of Science’s traveling programs into our schools,” she said.

Some of Big Blue Bargains on display.

Some of Big Blue Bargains on display. | Photo: Paula Muller

Board member Jen Townsend, who coordinates with the local schools and PTAs, highlights the diverse offerings that Big Blue Bargains support. “We’ve brought theatrical performances such as The Pirates of Penzance and the Museum of Science’s traveling programs into our schools,” she said.

Big Blue Bargains gladly accepts clothing, footwear, handbags and jewelry, books and DVDs, small pieces of furniture including chairs, end tables, and bookshelves, skates and cleats, household goods such as dishes and glassware, toys and games, paintings and other decorative items. The Big Blue Bargains crew asks that all donated items are clean and in good condition.

According to Wollerscheid, donors are incredibly generous. As an example, she described a veteran, asking to remain anonymous, who donated his collections of silver coins and Revolutionary War figures which generated $2,000 at auction. And while appreciating their donors, Big Blue Bargains also values the generosity of Swampscott Middle School, which provides space for the shop and custodial services.

Wollerscheid noted that volunteers at the Magic Hat Thrift Shop, located at Marblehead Veterans Middle School, provided supplies and guidance during the planning of Big Blue Bargains. “The team at Magic Hat has been huge help to us,” she said.

Given the volume of goods that come through Big Blue Bargains’ doors, the volunteers who help stock shelves and racks and organize donations are essential to the shop’s success. “In addition to volunteers, we always need donations and help raising awareness,” said Wollerscheid. “Spread the word. It’s a wonderful resource for our schools.”

In addition to the brick and mortar shop — open on Wednesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.—Big Blue Bargains can be found on eBay at BigBlueBargains2012 and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BigBlueBargains.

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