VICTORIA -- Non-profit thrift stores in the Capital Region are now struggling with a bounty of donations that have piled up while the stores were closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beacon Community Services is one of those organizations trying to keep up with the mounting donations being dropped off.

Since reopening six of their seven stores on June 16, they have seen both a surge of people dropping off items they had been meaning to donate during the pandemic. But before donated items can hit the shelves, they have to be quarantined.

Due to COVID-19 health and safety concerns, volunteers are now boxing up and storing all new donations in large delivery trucks and shipping containers at their facilities. Boxes are marked with a date and kept quarantined for five days before they are removed from storage, then processed and sold.

“We sell over 700,000 items a year which is why we are quarantining and not trying to clean everything,” says Glenys Cavers, director of volunteer and senior services for Beacon Community Services.

“As soon as we have space in the stores, we are putting things out. We’re not quite keeping pace so we’re definitely running out of room," she added. "We don’t have a warehouse.”

Summer is usually one of the busiest times of year for donations at Beacon Community Services stores, making the situation all the more challenging.

Cavers says they may have to start looking for new places to store donations as people realize they are accepting them again.

She says you can make the volunteer’s job much easier by putting similar items in the same box. People should also make sure donations are clean and in good working order; they are not able to repair electronics and will have to dispose of them.

The shops are only allowing donations during designated hours.

Anything dropped off outside those hours is considered “dumping” and won’t be accepted for safety reasons. That means they will be sent to the landfill; something the non-profit has to pay for, taking money away from programs and services.

All stores are limiting the amount of people shopping at any one time, all change rooms are closed and all sales are final. Sneeze guards have also been installed at the cash register to protect staff and customers.

All funds raised through the sale of donated items go to support programs across Greater Victoria.

“Workshop funds go towards all of our various programs from babies right up to people who are in their 90s and even over 100,” said Cavers.

Check out Beacon Community Services website to see what they accept for donations and what your donations help support.

Other not-for-profit community organizations that except donations for retail thrift stores have their own set of rules and regulations around donating, so it is best to check their websites before venturing out.