Dedicated to providing holistic care to the community, Red Shield Industries generates income through its Family Thrift Stores by reusing, recycling and restoring donations.
“Excellence in delivery of a donation-in-kind service” – states the mission of Red Shield Industries (RSI), the social enterprise arm of The Salvation Army. A service that is receptive and responsive to the needs of the community is sorely needed, and Red Shields Industries strives to provide exactly that.
A saving grace in times of need
The first Salvation Army Family Thrift Store in Malaysia was opened in August 1997 in Melaka, and later in Puchong and Banting. Following that, more stores were established in Penang, Ipoh and Kuching. In 2002, a warehouse was found in Puchong as the centralised hub of operations for donations-in-kind, and it was later named Red Shield Industries.
“Having a centralised hub helps with the coordination of items to communities in need, especially in times of crises like flood and fire. In times of emergency, items such as clothing and mattresses can be delivered directly to those affected.”Major Francis Ng, The Salvation Army Malaysia Regional Officer
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure
On a daily basis, RSI accepts about 1 to 2 tonnes (around 1,000 to 2,000kg) of movable goods, ranging from clothing to children’s toys, and sometimes even brand new items that people no longer want. Since 1997, an estimated 18,000 tonnes (18 million kg!) has moved through the enterprise. They also have a collection service where they accept and collect unused or unwanted bulky goods, such as furniture, from people’s offices and homes.
Their Family Thrift Stores mainly attract bargain hunters looking for necessities on a budget, niche music collectors and sellers from the B40 community in the bundle clothing sale business.
In the future, RSI hopes to have its own recycling centre, but for now, items that cannot be sold or given away to communities in need, such as fabric, metal, wood and paper products are sold to recycling centres, located in near proximity to their warehouse.
The struggle for sustainability
As a business, the reselling of pre-loved items has its ebbs and flows. It was particularly difficult for RSI to stay financially healthy with the growing overhead costs and slow sales, and they even had to temporarily halt operations for a time. RSI restarted its work in recent years, but then COVID-19 hit and threw a spanner in the works. Thankfully, things are slowly picking up again.
“We hope through the power of word of mouth and social media, we can be on the top of people’s minds when they want a solution for their unwanted but still usable goods.”Major Francis Ng
Serving God by helping those in need
The Salvation Army stays aligned with the beliefs of its founder, General William Booth, to serve those in need. Currently, proceeds from RSI go towards supporting The Salvation Army’s work in serving local communities in Malaysia.
At the moment, funds are channelled to assist the daily operations of The Salvation Army’s five residential homes for children, one home for the aged, one special education school and 10 community service centres that provide disaster and emergency relief assistance.
RSI also provides jobs, with a lean team that works alongside volunteers to sort, price and sell thousands of pre-loved items. Wendy Lee, assistant merchandiser at RSI’s warehouse, shared that it’s always interesting to see the items people bring in to donate. She’s also 68 years old and still going strong!
“This job has helped me to grow in community and connection with people. I’m also happy that I can stay active and be part of the Lord’s work. As long as He gives me the energy, I will keep working.”WEndy lee, rsi warehouse assistant merchandiser
How can you help?
>> Volunteer your time
At RSI, their team only consists of about 10 people. They are in need of volunteers who are willing to do sorting work and can help to sort out donated goods so more items can be covered in less time.
>> Donate used or unused items, as long as they’re usable
Anything in your home that you no longer need can be donated, as long as it is still usable. You may even have brand new stuff that is longing for a new owner. Instead of discarding these items, donate them to RSI. The next time you spring clean your home, separate them into three different bags: one to keep, one to donate, and one to dispose of.
>> Be responsible and quality check before donating
Do thrift stores a favour by checking the quality of items donated. If they are damaged or non-functional, incomplete in parts, in bad condition (torn, tattered, terrible looking), it may be better to toss them out. If electronic items can be repaired, leave a note before giving them away or fix them before donating. Thrift stores spend an excessive amount of time combing through donated items and we can help them by donating responsibly.