Thrift Story CU

About Thrift Story CU

What is Thrift Story?
Thrift Story is a unique project in the Boston, MA area of the United States that combines reuse, thrifting, and storytelling. It was created by Lydia Emmanouilidou, a public radio producer. The idea was born out of her wondering, as she shopped at thrift stores, what the backstory was for various items she would see on the shelves. In fall 2017, she decided that hosting what she describes as “a pop-up thrift store where everything comes with a backstory attached” would make for a unique community storytelling event. She partnered with her public radio colleague Amulya Shankar to produce the event. Small items and articles of clothing were donated by members of the community, who agreed to attach the story of the item they donated on an index card (without individual names or any other identifying information). Collected items were sold at a public venue for a flat fee ($5 each), and the organizers were able to raise around $150 for hurricane relief (Thrift Story proceeds are donated to a different charity after each event).

The idea resonated with so many people, that Lydia and Amulya decided to continue this labor of love and host additional events, to benefit other organizations in their community. A second event was held in January 2018 to raise funds for a local homeless shelter.

Visit the Thrift Story web site to learn more, and connect to them on FacebookInstagram, and Soundcloud.

What is Thrift Story CU?
Joy Scrogum, author of Really Reuseful, works as a sustainability specialist at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign as her “day job.” She works on a wide variety of zero waste projects with clients and organizations throughout the state, including the Illini Gadget Garage on the UI campus. As part of her role for ISTC, Joy taught a course on “Reuse as a Sustainability Strategy,” during fall 2017 for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Illinois. While gathering case studies for one of her lectures, Joy stumbled upon Thrift Story–and fell in love with the idea. When she told her students about it, they loved it too. She discussed the project with her staff members at the Illini Gadget Garage, and one of them, Madeleine Wolske, also fell in love with the combination of reuse and story telling. She agreed that it seemed like Champaign-Urbana (or “CU” as community members refer to the area, despite the UI campus name reversing the order of the twin cities) would be a perfect place to host a “spin off” of the project. So Joy reached out to Lydia Emmanouilidou, who approved the notion of a local version of the project in January 2018. Meanwhile, Madeleine accepted a position as Director of Imbibe Urbana, a small business that organizes events which celebrates and promotes Urbana art, businesses, organizations, and people. While Joy was sad to see Madeleine “leave” the Illini Gadget Garage (she still volunteers at the Garage as her schedule permits), this turn of events seemed like destiny–Imbibe Urbana hosts events to highlight local culture. What better partner to help coordinate pop-up thrift events to raise funds for local charities and organizations that benefit the public, at local venues that help form the fabric of CU?

So Thrift Story CU is a series of pop-up thrift store events in which donated items, with backstories attached, are sold to raise funds to support community projects and charities. The goals of Thrift Story CU are to encourage reuse, shopping local, and to highlight and support community projects in the Champaign-Urbana area.

Watch this space for further details as the project develops. Information on events will be on the Thrift Story CU Events page here on Really Reuseful. We’ll also share info on the Imbibe Urbana web site and social media.

(Note that although Joy works for the University, Thrift Story CU is a personal labor of love. Organizations or causes that benefit from fundraising events, and venues promoted as part of events, are choices made by Joy and Madeleine as individuals and should NOT be construed as endorsements by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, or associated departments or units. Mention of these entities on this web page are solely for the purpose of explaining who Joy is and how she learned about Thrift Story.)

How can you start a “spin-off” of Thrift Story in your community?
If you are inspired and want to start a Thrift Story spin off project in your community, please contact Lydia Emmanouilidou at