On a windy afternoon in Vancouver, Washington, AboutFace had the pleasure of sitting down on some of Divine Consign’s very comfortable and alluring furniture to chat with Linda Glover. If you keep up with Vancouver news you’ll recognize her name. She recently ran for city council but lost in a close race. Or you might know her because you’ve strolled into Divine Consign, a consignment store not far from the I5 Bridge. She’s usually behind the front desk helping customers. The showroom floor is expansive with the kind of furniture your parents bought after you left for college.
Linda Glover wants to help her community and she does it one nonprofit at a time in the heart of Vancouver. From donations to political leanings she’s trying to make a difference in the lives of others using the non-profit organization Divine Consign.
What is Divine Consign?
Divine Consign is an upscale consignment store that’s owned and operated by a nonprofit. And people can consign, or they can donate furniture to us. If they consign they get a fifty-fifty, but if they donate, then a share of the return proceeds goes to their favorite charity, and into grant funds. We put out grants once or twice a year. Right now we’re in the process of giving out fifty thousand dollars. Non-profits from all across the area can apply for those grants, and then we choose the ones that we think sound the best, and we give them that grant. So we’re in the process of doing that right now. We also have a clothing store. With donated clothing where people can shop and buy items. Again, the proceeds for that all go into the fund.
What kind of charities are usually donated to?
Our mission statement says that we are here to provide support to non-profits to deal with human services, education, and the arts. We’ve given funds to over 220 non-profits. We’ve been here for almost eleven years. There’s a list, and there’s a wide range of recipients. We try to help everybody that we can.
How does the process of choosing those nonprofits work?
There’s a committee that goes through it and comes up with what we think might make the most impact for the number of dollars that we have. We try to spread it out by age from hospice all the way down to new babies. As I said before, the arts, dance, education, preschools, & camps are all frequent recipients.
So it’s not just Divine Consign?
B.Divine Boutique as well.
You used to have a cupcake shop too?
We had a cupcake shop for almost five years. When we first did it there were no gourmet cupcakes in Vancouver, so we brought them in and it was great. They’re fabulous cupcakes! Now the person who baked our cupcakes still has a cupcake shop in St. John’s. So people can still get the same cupcakes, they just can’t get them here.
Can you talk a little bit about how Divine Consign got started?
In 1997 we opened our first Christmas store as a little holiday shop. It was put together by many executive directors of not-for-profits who were trying to find other ways to raise funds for their organizations. And so they brought together about twenty-five different non-profits. People chipped in money. We bought product, got a storage location donated, set up the store, sold the goods, paid for all the merchandise, then split up their proceeds among those non-profits. We did that until we opened this store in 2005. Somebody finally said to me, “Well, when I donate furniture I have to go all the way to Portland to donate to non-profits.”
It’s all run by volunteers, I’m the only paid person. We had such great patrons— they were very supportive of that. To fund it we had a party one night, and called it Power of The Purse. And by the end of that evening we had enough money. At first we were worried about ten thousand square-feet while signing the lease. How would we ever fill it? We filled it in six weeks, and it’s been filled ever since.
I can certainly see that at this moment the floor is quite full.
This is our leanest time of year, January – February with the lowest inventory (laughs). This is the slowest time for business. You can still see how packed it is right now. It’s usually much more filled than this.
What do you do if you get over- stocked?
We just keep making money.
Just keep at it?
These things have to roll through here, they can’t come in and sit. So people have to send us pictures or bring pictures, and we decide if we think they can sell or not. Because if it can’t sell that’s not helping us, and it’s not helping them. So we make sure it’s something we think that we can sell. If it’s accepted they bring it in, we appraise it, they agree to the price, and it stays on the floor for thirty days. After thirty days that price is reduced by fifteen percent. If it’s still here after sixty days it’s reduced by fifty per- cent. At ninety days, if it’s still here, we contact them if they would like to pick it up or donate it. If they donate it to us then we slash the price way down. At that point somebody will usually buy it. If not… just like today we had some clients from Vancouver Housing Authority who just found housing but don’t have any furniture. We gave them couches, tables, and beds. Whatever it is that we have that we can donate and fill up their truck and off they go. We do that as often as we can.
If someone in the community wants to help out with such a great cause what’s the best way?
Come in the store and talk to one of us, be a volunteer, or just bring us the furniture to consign, or donate. You can go online and learn about us, then you can call, and we have a volunteer coordinator talk with you. Most of our volunteers come in once a week for four hours. Over the years they become very very good friends. We have some volunteers who have been with us since 1999, and they just enjoy the friendship. For me as a manager, that’s wonderful, because there is a different crew of people every morning and every afternoon Monday through Saturday. They come in excited to be here to help out, upbeat and positive. And then they go home and another group of excited volunteers come in.
How else do you get involved with the community?
One of our most popular events is playing bunco. People from the community come in for a great night. They bring in the food and we set up for the parties. We have small groups of maybe twenty-five people, but we’ve had as many as about eighty-six people play at one time. I think the most money anyone has raised has been eight thousand dollars.
Wow, that’s great for a non-profit fundraiser!
Yeah, so it’s a good way to help. They have fashion shows and cocktail parties and we’ve had dinners. When we give our grants away twice a year we present them at a luncheon right here. You know, we try to do sponsorship. I’m very involved with the Downtown Association, I just wanted to help build up downtown and make it a stronger downtown. We’ve been here ten years, and… we’ve been supporting the best we can.
You mentioned Downtown Association?
Well I’ve been serving for ten years. I’ve been president, I’ve been secretary, and I’ve been on two or three different committees.
What do you do currently with Downtown Association?
Currently I’m secretary and I sit on the Economic Development Committee, and on the Promotions Committee. I think that’s the only two right now. We are working to bring the promotions of the events downtown and get the word about downtown out to the public. It’s pretty well known on the west end of town but people on the east end of town aren’t as aware. We’re excited to get residents who live nearby to come and sup- port. There’s much, much more to come. It’s going to be an awfully exciting place.
You’re an entrepreneur, do you have any advice for those that want to get involved with non-profit?
I think it just takes due diligence when you get an idea. You can’t just go out there. Passion is important and so is an idea. It is not always going to be what will lead to success. You really have to find out and do some research too. Find out… what people need. Does it affect our culture right now? Our business has evolved so much. You’ve just got to take a chance. Not all businesses are successful but each one of us learn something for the next experience. So it really takes a lot of courage.
You recently got involved in politics, do you ever see yourself doing that again?
Friends came to me a couple of times and asked if I would consider being involved. As you said I’ve been very involved in this town. I’ve worked with city committees and connected with people. I had a couple of changes in my life, and I thought I probably have the time to do something new. I like a challenge; and so I thought I had a fairly good chance. So, I made the decision to run for city council, and it was a fabulous experience. It really challenged me on a lot of different levels and the learning curve is just amazing. I thought I knew all about the city but then you have to learn how all the different departments function and the challenges. I’m glad I did it. I’d consider it, but I have to see what comes along.
Is this something you always wanted to do?
I was an elementary principal and teacher. My daughter married and moved to Vancouver. The year after that my husband decided that we had an opportunity to move here. We were going to go into small business here, so I came in thinking I probably would stay with education because I loved it. By doing the non-profit, I got a lot of experience. I went on to represent them and work in a little Christmas shop we started. I kind of fell in love, I found out I love to shop.