WINGS WITH HEART
WINGS WITH HEART
Flying Pig Thrift is a nonprofit cooperative thrift shop opened in honor of Heather Valdez. Her spirit guides this nonprofit retail store, where donated treasures find new homes and local nonprofits benefit as a result.
How does it work? We collect secondhand donations and donate a portion of the profits from the sale of these goods to nonprofit organizations that aim to promote social justice and to reduce gun violence.
We also have a dedicated space within the shop that features the programs and, in some cases, merchandise of our nonprofit partners. The shop also has handmade items from local artists who make art from repurposed materials.
We have amazing volunteer staff members and rely on community donations to keep our shop going. Once we meet our monthly expenses, we share the rest with our nonprofit partners. We split profits evenly between them.
Flying Pig Thrift is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit.
Heather lived all of her adult life in Texas, mostly in or near Austin, and she took her love of thrifting with her. She could hunt down a treasure faster than I could say, “howdy!”, amazing me with her finds. When I visited her, she had our shopping outings planned according to specific thrift stores and their specialties. An introvert by nature, she left her shell behind when she did story time at the library and was known for her flashy dressing and costume jewelry. I must say that Heather was in bling before bling was a thing. She also loved to decorate with eclectic abandon, combining sacred statues with pearls and plastic dolls. And it all worked.
Well, I never thought I’d be running a nonprofit thrift shop in Minnesota, but here I am, doing exactly that. And how did that happen?
It goes back to a small town in Ohio, where my sister and I grew up with our family in a renovated barn. We were six years apart, but that never stood in our way. We had a strong connection from the very beginning, even though I was extremely jealous of her beautiful auburn hair. When Heather was very young, our grandmother told her she would grow up to be a librarian, and that’s indeed what happened.
We never tired of thrifting, even when she was coming home from her chemo treatments. Luckily, there was a Goodwill close to the hospital! She loved finding treasures for folks she loved; one time, she stumbled on a djembe drum for my husband Charlie, a drummer. She had a special place for storing future gifts, and so did I.
Even though she was the younger one, she refused to follow my direction to stay put, and succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 61. I was devastated; how could I live a life without Heather? And slowly, it came to me: open a thrift shop in her honor, and give the profits away in tribute to her generous spirit.
I remember when she gave me a precious little flying pig figure, and so that’s how I named the shop. Her spirit has lent a helping hand all along the way, and I have tried to echo her wild decorative flair throughout the store. I lost a sister, but her memory lives on.
Heather reading a book to her great nephew and great niece.