Over the years, the PROP Shop’s 11 employees have become experts in improvising makeshift solutions to the organization’s storage problems. Now, a grant from the Eden Prairie Lion’s Club has enabled the thrift store-slash-nonprofit to buy an expensive new pallet stacker that will overhaul the way the PROP Shop’s behind-the-scenes action, said executive director Cindy Eddy.
“They’ve been unbelievably supportive,” Eddy said of the Lion’s Club Foundation, which gave the grant money this February. “You can’t run an organization this big without outside help.”
The PROP Shop, 15195 Martin Drive in Eden Prairie, receives thousands of donations every year with little rhyme or reason, said Dan Ward, the store’s facilities manager.
“With donations, we don’t know. All of a sudden we’ll be swamped by the community donating clothes,” he said.
“We can’t plan, we can’t project,” Eddy added. “We’ve just got to be flexible and ready.”
Before 2015, many of the store’s volunteers would stow off-season clothing (shorts in the winter, coats in the summer) in nooks and crannies in their basements. When the organization bought a warehouse a few blocks down Martin Drive five years ago, those piles were transferred to the space’s many low shelves until a visitor recommended they tear down the cramped office dividers to open up the space’s tall ceilings.
That helped a bit, said operations manager Vicki Bomben, but in spring 2019, “We were using every corner and tripping over things,” she said. There wasn’t much of an inventory, either; “Before, we just new where the pile was,” Bomben laughed.
One such storage hack was to zip-tie chicken wire to the ceiling-high shelves and toss bags of coats into the improvised bins. Now, with a pallet stacker that can carry up to 2,200 pounds and lift boxes the size of a small horse, those thrifty hacks are in the past.
“It’s basically tripled our storage capabilities,” Bomben said.
While the new tool has “exponentially” improved the store’s warehouse storage, without the Lion’s Club Foundation grant, purchasing a pallet stacker was low on the PROP Shop’s list of priorities, Eddy said.
“Every extra dime we have, we’re going to buy socks and underwear,” she explained.
As the PROP Shop’s client base continues to grow, with more families requesting services every year and assisting around 20 homeless families at any given time, the team of 11 employees and nearly 600 volunteers will continue to embrace that creative spirit, Ward said.
“There’s no such thing as ‘you can’t do it,’” he declared.