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Small prices draw big turnout

Tue., Sept. 4, 2007

Mom, Dad and 10 kids from the Gardner family had a plan going into Spokane’s Value Village on Monday to finish their back-to-school shopping: Divide and conquer.

After splitting up and scouring the racks, the Gardner children – ages 4 to 23 – returned to dump their finds in a shopping cart, which was soon hidden beneath a mountain of clothes.

At the thrift store’s annual 50 percent off Labor Day sale, every cart and shopping bag was in use and lines of people waiting to check out snaked through the store.

“You get sweatshirts that say ‘Aspen’ and you don’t have to go on the trip, but people think you did,” joked Steve Gardner, a sixth-grade teacher at Mead’s Evergreen Elementary and the father of 12 children – three biological and the rest adopted. “This is how we afford our vacations.”

“This is how we afford the kids, to tell the truth,” said his wife, Michelle.

Hand-me-downs are common in the Gardner family, Michelle Gardner said, so the children weren’t worried about starting school today in used duds.

“We’d rather spend money on adopting another child than spend it on new clothes that are just going to get old,” Steve Gardner said. “These aren’t worn out.”

Andrew Gardner, 12, found a Green Bay Packers sweatshirt. His favorite team is the Philadelphia Eagles, but he was willing to humor his dad, who is a Packers fan.

Rebekah Gardner, 17, is a fan of retro clothes, so she said she doesn’t mind used clothing.

“If they look good on me, it’s OK,” she said.

Sandy Donnally, of Spokane, said the store’s half-off sale allowed her to cut her budget for school clothes in half.

Instead of spending the $100 she typically budgeted, she allowed her two daughters a combined $50.

Every year, Donnally buys her children’s school clothes at thrift stores.

“It’s something we can afford,” said Donnally, who is unemployed.

Casandra Donnally, 11, said her favorite find of the day was a pair of camouflage pants. Regular price: $8.99.

“I like camouflage,” said Casandra, who starts the sixth grade today at Holmes Elementary.

Chris Shaw came to the sale with her daughter-in-law and two granddaughters.

“I think this is great they’re having a half-price sale,” Shaw said as her 5-year-old granddaughter, Alee, hid her face behind a nearly new winter coat. “You can really tell the state of the economy when everyone’s in here shopping the thrifty way.”

Shaw raised two boys as a single mother and did a lot of shopping at thrift stores. Her mother, before her, shopped at thrift shops, too.

“I think it’s a frugal way to go,” Shaw said. “Most of the clothes, especially for kids, are very slightly used.”

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