Over the years, SWARF has spent or donated almost a million dollars.
A tiny Corrales icon with international impact teetered briefly on the brink of extinction. It now has new life, thanks to an important concept: collaboration.
Secondhand Treasures, the highly visible lifeline of Southwest Animal Rescue Fund, Inc. (SWARF), received a “Notice to Vacate” that gave the popular thrift shop less than 30 days to get out of its location in “The Bunkhouse” on Corrales Road.
“We’ve been here for 11 and a half years,” said SWARF founder Nancy Baumgardner. Then the owners decided to sell the 3,500-sq-ft building, so the shop had to go. Their original vacate date was July 31, Baumgardner said, “But we negotiated an extra week (until Aug. 7), so we get one more week to move and clean out.” Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, July 29-31 from noon to 4 p.m. will be (or was, depending on when this runs) their last sales weekend.
A huge “Closing” sign outside prompted shoppers to hurry in for last-minute bargains and to share their distress over the apparent demise of a small, local business that has been the source of impeccable, affordable, repurposed merchandise from jewelry to home décor to clothing.
Baumgardner said the store’s success for years was attributable to “the generous donors of Corrales,” but in recent times, people from all over, including Rio Rancho and Albuquerque, have come to contribute goods that eventually help a whole network of organizations and their patrons, human and animal.
“We only put out our best items,” she said. “We sell only about one-third of everything that is donated. The next third goes to the Oscar Foundation, a group that gives grants to low-income families for surgeries for their dogs.” The Oscar Foundation has two warehouses where they collect donations sold in huge garage sales, she said. “The last third goes to Savers or Goodwill or the trash. Very little goes to trash.”
Because of SWARF’s work, Baumgardner said, Animal Humane of New Mexico, what she termed the biggest not-for-profit animal welfare organization in New Mexico, heard of Secondhand Treasures’ plight and took action. They convinced her to pause (Paws) and continue to seek new space rather than cease operations. She said SWARF has looked at and made offers on several properties but none of the deals have materialized.
“The CFO and CEO of Animal Humane New Mexico came out here, looked at the shop, and said, ‘It would be such a shame if this closed,’” she said. “They have a huge campus at Virginia and Wyoming, so they offered to help with warehouse space for all our fixtures (shelves, display cases, racks). They have trucks with lifts, so they’re going to move everything there. We’re collaborating with them, so we’re going to give them all the merchandise that’s left for their thrift shop on Menaul. It’s a real collaboration. It’s all for the animals.”
So what does SWARF actually do?
Their work has changed from the days when they raised money, did direct rescue, and provided hospice and sanctuary care for old, sick, or rescued animals that needed rehabilitation. Now, they care for the sanctuary/hospice animals that remain but don’t accept any new residents. They principally run the thrift shop and raise money for other animal rescue groups such as ARGOS and NMDOG. SWARF recently gave several thousand dollars of jewelry and decorative art to ARGOS, a Rio Rancho rescue group that raises funds through live and on-line auctions.
Over the years, SWARF has spent or donated almost a million dollars, Baumgardner said. The money covered veterinary bills, boarding, food and supplies, training, out-of-state transport and grants to other 501(c)(3) rescue groups, along with in-kind donations such as crates, food, towels and blankets. The Spay/Neuter Coalition of NM is one of their most important recipients, she said.
Recently, they sent $500 each to three large, reputable international animal welfare organizations to help rescue animals affected by the war in Ukraine, as well as donating to groups assisting those displaced by New Mexico’s wildfires. They make regular contributions to a woman on the Navajo Reservation who cares for strays, getting them spayed, neutered and vaccinated, and feeding them.
Utilizing Animal Humane’s help, she added, SWARF’s work remains alive while they continue their search for a new location for Secondhand Treasures. “We are looking for something on Corrales Road, and we prefer to buy; we can buy. If we don’t find something in Corrales, we just won’t reopen.”
Meanwhile, successes created by collaboration among those who care deeply about animals will allow SWARF to operate “ad hoc,” she said. ”They are keeping our presence out there while we continue to collect and process donations for them. It’s a win-win.”