PHOTO: Annie Mwelwa, left, stands with her daughter, Mwelwa Bwalya, inside her store, Green Family Closet Thrifty, located at 3056 Burnet Ave. Donors: bring in 25 gently used items and receive a $10 store credit. Phone: 373-0723
In late August, Annie Mwelwa's dream came true. She opened her own business on Burnet Avenue in Syracuse called Green Family Closet Thrifty; the word green symbolizing the recycling of clothes. Her desire to open a thrift store comes from her own experience raising three children on little money.
"Ever since I came to this country, that's where I've done all my shopping," Mwelwa said. "I was constantly looking for bargains in thrift stores and trying to make it with the little money I had. I feel like if this worked for me and this is what is helping other people to survive, I feel we should make it work."
Mwelwa and her family emigrated to the United States from Zambia in 1995 and lived in Syracuse public housing until she became a member of the United Church of Fayetteville. The church then set the family up at its Jubilee House, a home that UCF provides to recently-arrived refugees in Syracuse. They lived there five years.
"When I was moving from the Jubilee House (to her current home in Manlius), that's when I realized that my gosh, I had so much stuff," she exclaimed. "Because the house was so big and with the children and with me, every time I found something, I was like 'oh, I've gotta have this.'"
Her transition was an awakening, when she realized "you can't just hold onto things."
"It's not nice to keep things that you don't need to use or you're not using at that particular time," Mwelwa said. "Recycling should really be important. If you have something you're not using at home, instead of just holding onto it, take it somewhere where someone can reuse it."