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Meet the Trailbreaker's Employee of the Month: Thrift store supervisor Violet Walters

Violet Walters has been working at the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Yellowknife since 2010. She's earned a reputation as a friendly face with a big heart.

Salvation Army Thrift Store manager loved by customers for brightening their day

Violet Walters has worked at the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Yellowknife since 2010. She's beloved by customers for her warm smile and big heart. (Rachel Zelniker/CBC)

When Violet Walters first stepped foot in the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Yellowknife, she was looking for a fresh start. She had recently left a bad relationship and she needed help starting over.

"The girls at the thrift shop were graciously helping me out because I needed pots, pans, dishes, everything to start off my new life," recalls Walters.

Now, more than 10 years later, Walters is paying it forward — working as the supervisor of the thrift store, and helping others in similar situations.

'Every day is a garage sale'

"I love it here," says Walters with a smile as she sorts through hundreds of donated items.

"If you love garage sales this is a place for you because every day is a garage sale, you never know what you're going to get."

Walters has seen everything from a brand new kayak to cannabis come through the doors, but says the latter never makes it out on the floor.

"We're very, very tight," she said. "We don't even have beer shirts on the floor."

Walters struggles to lift one of the hundreds of garbage bags full of donations the staff have to sort through on a daily basis. She says she loves the thrill of the hunt, and the surprise of opening every bag. (Rachel Zelniker/CBC)

'We're non-judgmental'

Walters is beloved by customers, and nearly everyone who walks through the door is greeted with a warm smile. She says she wants people to feel welcome, no matter what they're coming in for.  

"We do get a lot of people who just need to talk. They're not really looking for anything but they come in because we're always smiling and have something to say, and we're non-judgmental.

"You know, tell us your story and how you got to this point. We're compassionate. We listen."

Walters knows what it's like to need someone to lean on. She lost her husband in 2004, who drowned after he fell into Ryan Lake during a fishing trip.

"Life was a blur after that. I would say I missed my husband, and I held on to a bad relationship after that for a long time."

She credits the staff at the thrift store for helping her get through that time, and is happy to know she can support others facing difficult situations.  

"I've been there, I've had a bad life before. I didn't have any money for a coat, and it's nice to know that there are places like this where you can actually get things you need and and actually talk to us as well."

Walters says she gets as much as she gives. 

"Seeing customers and people happy, it makes me happy. It takes my [pain] away."

Who's the next Trailbreaker employee of the month?

We are looking to show some love to folks who make the Northwest Territories a better place just by being great at their jobs. 

Do you have a favourite gas bar attendant? Is it a lifeguard at the pool? A librarian or cashier? 

Call our talkback line at 1-866-271-9957 and tell us who you think deserves to be the next Trailbreaker Employee of the Month, or email trailbreaker@cbc.ca.

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