Baker Lake opens thrift store with a plan to run food bank on the profits

After nearly three years of planning, the Abluqta Society in Baker Lake, Nunavut, opened the doors to a thrift store on Friday.

The thrift store is staffed by people with disabilities and barriers to employment

President of the Abluqta Society, Joe Arnasungaaq, cut the ribbon and welcomed residents to the store at QDC 33. There was a cake, caribou stew, and door prizes at the Friday afternoon opening. (Submitted Erin Strachan)

After nearly three years of planning, the Abluqta Society in Baker Lake, Nunavut, opened the doors to a thrift store on Friday.

The idea for the society came about during a 2016 pre-employment training program funded by Nunavut's Department of Family Services and put on by Performance Management Consultants (PMC).

Erin Strachan, who's with PMC, delivered the course to people with disabilities and barriers to employment, like addiction and mental health problems. She said in addition to training, she thought the 16 participants also needed work experience.

When she heard about the need for a thrift store in the community from the local wellness committee, she thought it could be a good fit.  

"A lot of people don't have jobs or steady income so there's always a need for clothing and toys and household items, but people can't always afford to go to the store," said Strachan. "So the idea is that by having thrift items, people can actually afford to buy the things they need for their families." 

Strachan said before the thrift store opened, clothing was dropped off at the local government office and people could riffle through, but she said the idea was that a store would be more "dignified" and organized.

The business plan for the store, created by the program's graduates, modelled the store off Rankin Inlet's Ikurraq Deacon's Cupboard, which is both a clothing centre and food bank.

Baker Lake residents and society volunteers watch the ribbon-cutting of the thrift store opening. (Submitted by Erin Strachan)

The Abluqta Society also raised $30,000 to hire a store manager with the hopes that proceeds from the store will eventually fund a food bank.

Baker Lake has been without a food bank since 2015, when the volunteer-run program closed.  

Two graduates of the program run the store and head up the society's board, Sharon Alerk is the store manager and Joe Arnasungaaq is the president of the society.

Ikurraq sent a seacan full of clothing, toy and food donations last summer to the society and that's mainly the stock that was available at the store's grand opening on Friday.

Arnasungaaq cut the ribbon and welcomed residents to the store at QDC 33 on Friday afternoon. There was a cake, caribou stew, and door prizes at the afternoon opening.

The society is now working on securing funding to help with the food bank and deciding on a name for the thrift store, they're contemplating a naming contest.

With files from Lissie Anaviapik