Glean (verb)

1.  accumulate something - transitive verb to obtain information in small amounts over a period of time.
2.  gather after harvest - transitive and intransitive verb to go over a field or area that has just been harvested and gather by hand any usable parts of the crop that remain

Gleaner (noun ) - One who gleans

In a small town in south-eastern British Columbia, Canada one may arguably find the best example of gleaners anywhere in the western world.

Gleaners, Gleaners Too and Gleaners Food Bank reside in separate buildings in Creston, BC (a town numbering just over 5,000 people) and each entity is a constant hive of activity from 6 am every morning, Monday through Friday, in the sort rooms of the various departments.

Here you will find a full-time paid staff of one ( ! ), an on-call part-time staff for gate duty and fill-in for the paid staff, and a staff of 100 +/- volunteers who sort, clean, mend and allocate a treasure trove of donated products into three different categories of goods.  Each volunteer works from three to forty hours a week, and some volunteers have worked for Gleaners for twenty years and more since it began in 1984.

In 2012, the three arms of Gleaners racked up 30,000 volunteer hours.

At Gleaners, you'll find the volunteers working on clothing (for babies, children, men and women), jewelry, shoes, household dry goods, craft supplies and sewing items, along with a wide selection of other household items.

The volunteer staff at Gleaners Too will be preparing small household appliances, dishwares, furniture (including beds, tables, dressers, lamps, etc.), books, games and a huge assortment of miscellany for sale.

Another segment of this marvellous pie, Gleaners Food Bank, allocates food to those in the community who need temporary and / or ongoing assistance with their grocery needs.  Packaging 40 - 50 parcels per open day, valuing $100 each, they are open two days a week from 9 am to 1 pm.  A family of four will receive two parcels when they visit.

In 2012, the Gleaners 'family' donated $69,705.00 directly into the community (to schools for the lunch programs, day cares, hospice, Therapeutic Activation Program for Seniors - TAPS, and so on) through the sale of the items they gleaned and sold.  Through the Food Bank they disbursed an additional $70,000, and a further $34,000 obtained through cash donations from locals, churches and corporations, along with food-in-kind donations of fresh fruits and vegetables in season from local orchardists and farmers, and canned goods from locals and corporations.

At Gleaners, nothing goes to waste.  Any clothing unsold in a specific time is cut into rags by TAPS members and additional volunteers, and sold to a firm in Maple Ridge, BC for recycling and further use for medical supplies in third world countries.  Gleaners receives $ .11 per pound for these rags, and sends a transport truck full every six weeks.  In this manner, 200,000 pounds are annually kept from the landfill.

Gleaners is open to the public from 9:30 am to 4 pm on Tuesdays and Fridays, and from 4 to 7 pm on Thursday evenings.  Gleaners Too opens 9 am to 4 pm Tuesdays and Fridays.  The Gleaners Food Bank serves its clients from 9 am to 1 pm on Tuesdays and Fridays.  All opening times are fully staffed by volunteer salespeople, of course.

In Creston, it is a matter of pride for people to say 'I got it at Gleaners!' or 'I gave it to Gleaners'.  You'll often see the Gleaners truck about town, picking up pieces for those who cannot take their donations to the Gleaners stores.

It is evident that the concept of this Gleaners program is a wonderful example of community helping community in a circle of sharing.  Each volunteer who donates their time, energy and effort is creating a flow of goods, food and funds outward into the town.  The townspeople donate their goods back to Gleaners, which benefits the community again in an unending circle of caring.

Gleaners Mission Statement:

*  To lend a hand where most needed.
*  To treat those individuals who are less fortunate with dignity and caring.

Purpose of Gleaners Society:

*  To make available goods to those in need (food, clothing, household items)
*  Assistance in emergency (fire or flood)
*  To maintain a retail centre available to the general public for purchase of dry goods, proceeds to finance charitable endeavours of Gleaners.

Submitted by Rose Marie Wood, ( email Rose ),
Public Relations, Gleaners, Gleaners Too and Gleaners Food Bank

What is your town doing with the 3 R's?  How does the caring circle work in your community?  We'd be happy to have you tell us your story - email us with your blog post proposal.


  1. My husband and I are thrift store junkies. We've been to Gleaners, which was a hive of activity on both sides of the counter and were impressed. Now that I have read their statistics I am in complete awe. 200,000 pounds of rags a year and a full transport truck every 6 weeks that don't hit the landfill?! And the support of the community is staggering. Well done Creston. We sould move there!

    1. Agreed. This is an amazing example of community caring in action. It benefits the townspeople, the environment and the hearts of the volunteers.

  2. I have seen first hand the good that comes from the support that the Gleaner's gives to community programs. Thank you to all the volunteers that keep this excellent program operating.

    1. It is a wonderful program, and the volunteers deserve huge thanks for making this all happen.

  3. I donate what I can to Gleaners frequently. Thank You to all the many volunteers at Gleaners!

    1. And endless circle of caring for each other.