VSG opens permanent, free thrift shop in Sarratt Student Center

Members of the Vanderbilt community can take clothing as needed for free.

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Alex Venero

The VSG thrift store in Room 307c in Sarratt Student Center, as photographed on Dec. 12, 2021. (Hustler Multimedia/Alex Venero)

Zach Joseph, Staff Writer

Vanderbilt Student Government (VSG) has converted the former Vanderbilt Student Communications office, Room 307c in Sarratt Student Center, into a permanent, free thrift store, run on donations from the student body. The store opened on Nov. 29 and is available to all members of the Vanderbilt community.

Senior Jenn Coen, chair of the VSG Environmental Affairs Committee, told The Hustler that she was inspired to establish the store by free thrift stores at peer institutions such as Cornell University. Before the official store opened, VSG held several pop-up thrift shops, taking place in the Fall 2021 semester from Aug. 28 to Sept. 2. Student Body President and senior Hannah Bruns said the thrift store will be accessible to every member of the Vanderbilt community. 

“Anybody—any student, faculty or staff member—is welcome to go into the thrift store and take whatever they want,” Bruns said. “Everything is free, no questions asked.”

The Vanderbilt Alumni Association helped with getting the thrift store off the ground by giving VSG a $5,000 grant. Per Bruns, this money has gone toward purchasing donation bins for clothes—rather than the cardboard boxes used during the 2020-21 school year—cleaning donated clothes and paying for storage space to store leftover donated clothing.

The store’s clothing is sourced from student donations, which VSG collected during the 2020-21 school year. Bruns said the thrift store will be restocked based on demand for clothes.

“We’ve stored them over the summer,” Coen said. “[Clothing put out earlier in the semester] was a lot of our summer clothing, but we have around 1,000 pounds of winter clothing now and some leftover that didn’t go last time.”

Although the available clothing will be based on donations, Bruns said there will be a push to adjust the clothing selection based on the time of year. She also explained that there will always be somebody in the store to answer questions and monitor the operation of the shop.

“If we know that it’s going to be super cold these next couple of weeks, we’ll try and bring in more winter clothing,” Bruns said. “For Halloween, we tried to get more costume things out there. Before game days, [we] try and get more Vanderbilt apparel into the store.”

Student Body Vice President and junior Kayla Prowell said she hopes that the thrift store will aid in changing the culture of Vanderbilt to be more equitable. 

“Since everything is free, it ensures that no one has to be concerned about monetary hardships caused by retail shopping,” Prowell said in a message to The Hustler. “Also, since everyone has access to it and can donate to it, it makes it a perfect way to unite campus.”

From Nov. 15-19, VSG and the Vanderbilt chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) jointly hosted a winter clothing drive outside Rand to ensure that all students, especially those from low-income backgrounds, had access to warm clothes. These donations were added to the permanent VSG thrift store after Thanksgiving break.

Looking ahead, members of VSG hope that the thrift store will grow and open the door for new opportunities to improve campus life. 

“​​We hope to expand the thrift shop as well as partner with other orgs and offices on campus to create a more holistic approach,” Prowell said.

Coen encouraged students to donate to the thrift store and to spread the word about it. According to Bruns, bins will be placed around campus at the end of each semester. If bins are not placed out but students still wish to donate clothing, they can bring items directly to the store.

“We’re going to be taking ongoing donations throughout the semester,” Coen said. “We’ll also have larger collections at the end of each semester for everyone to donate their own clothes.”