Savvy thrift store shoppers need to know about the rock bottom prices at Charity Cars for Kids Thrift Store in Santa Clara. It’s off the beaten shopping path at 2725 Lafayette Street near Walsh, but it’s worth a detour.
Charity Cars for Kids is a mom and pop-run—well, mostly mom and volunteer-run—independent, 501c3 charitable organization that works alongside the more well-known organizations to assist local needy children and their families in practical ways. It sometimes fills in the cracks, meeting the overflow need from, for example, Catholic Charities.
For shoppers who enjoy the thrill of the hunt, the storefront warehouse bulges with 96,000 square feet of bargains—clothing, household goods, furniture, and working electronics items. Shirts sell for $3, pants for $4, and jackets for $5. Books are sold by the inch. Sewing machines are priced $65.
Charity Cars for Kids thrives on the passion of one woman—Kelly Parker, its founder.
“This is my whole life. I didn’t want to be a middle man. I want to be hands on,” says Santa Clara-born Parker, whose stated mission is “to support programs that seek to educate, empower, enrich and enlighten the lives of school age children, ages 5 to 19.”
Charity Cars for Kids has three key assistance programs. The Tools for School Program provided 2,000 filled backpacks for kids this fall. It also has provided new computer systems for schools and centers that serve children and classroom supplies for teachers.
It is gearing up for Warm 4 Winter to provide the needy with 1,000 new blankets and pillows. Its holiday Adopt-A-Family in Need Program is unique in that Santa Claus himself delivers the gifts and a holiday meal. In December 2010, Santa visited 26 families.
Vehicle donations are key to funding Charity Cars for Kids programs. You donate directly to the organization without going through a costly middle person/ car handler. The cars are sold from their own lot or given to needy individuals for transportation. It will tow your car for free and handle all the legal paperwork. In 2010, it processed about 1,000 vehicles, but the count is way down this year.
It also accepts e-waste for recycling, cash donations, furniture and household items for resale, pantry and toiletry items for its community cupboard, and the oversupply of produce from gardens to supplement that from Parker’s own on-site garden.
Parker divides her time between Montana, where she just welcomed her 9th grandchild, and Santa Clara, where her husband, Lloyd Augustine, operates Auto Ambulance, a towing company. In Hamilton, Montana, her best friend, Janie Rinta, runs the original Charity Cars for Kids organization, which Parker started in 2004.
“Shop here. Every dollar counts for kids,” says Parker. “If you have a need, give us a call. And if you know someone who needs help, give us their number. A lot of folks in need will never ask.”
“I came here one time just looking at stuff. Now I volunteer about 25 hours a week,” says Cary Gould. “I like the people who volunteer here and what Charity Cars for Kids does.”
For information or to donate any vehicle—even totaled—call (408) 748-0081 or visit http://charitycarsforkids.org. Thrift store hours: Monday – Saturday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.