Cynthia Cumming is the owner of Nifty Thrift Shop, in which all profits go towards a PTSD program she owns in the Philippines. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)

How one Langford thrift shop is connected to a small island in the Philippines

The grand opening of Nifty Thrift Shop is on Nov. 1 at 10 a.m.

A new thrift shop is coming to town, but with a twist – all profits directly benefit an overseas PTSD program.

“Nifty Thrift Shop is a non-profit, not a business,” says owner Cynthia Cummings. “This is the perfect opportunity to help our veterans, just in time for Remembrance Day too.”

The mother of six is a military wife. Her husband, Wayne Cummings, has served in the army as a physician assistant for 25 years and counting. Her friends have previously served and one of her children currently works in the navy.

But life turned upside down when their eldest son, Kevin, died by suicide in 2011. As a former member of the army, he had been diagnosed with PTSD. His death sent shockwaves through their friends and family.

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“Wayne didn’t really get the chance to process the death as he was working constantly overseas and one day out of the blue, he called me. He said, ‘I’m done working my life away. Let’s travel and see the world.’ I thought it was crazy, but I jumped on board.”

Cynthia sold most of their belongings, except their family home, in a single month. Once Wayne came home, Cynthia gathered three of their kids at the dinner table and took out a globe and spun it. She closed her eyes and placed her finger down. She opened her eyes and saw that she was pointing at the Philippines.

Cynthia Cummings chose where their family would travel to by spinning a globe and randomly placing her finger on the Philippines. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)

In the spring of 2012, they bought one-way tickets, nailed down a rental home, and landed on Tablas Island, nearby Boracay, a popular hot-spot for tourists. They quickly found a hospitable community that welcomed them into the neighbourhood.

“As we were settling in and looking out into the ocean, Wayne turned to me with tears in his eyes and said, ‘I think we found our home.’”

READ MORE: Victoria veteran begs people to please not touch his service dog

Being in nature and enjoying the island activities helped Wayne naturally transition to civilian life. They soon bought their own property with four acres of land and began developing the area. Over the next few years, Wayne would host veteran friends.

“After his friends were here, they felt healed. There was something about being here together and being immersed in the culture that really helped.”

The couple hired locals to build a pool and turned a once barren part of the island into a haven. Cynthia began studying to get a yoga certification and her best friend and daughter joined too.

“Before we knew it, we had become a retreat of sorts, complete with team-building exercises, yoga meditations, and community outreach activities.”

In 2014, they hosted their first retreat, called Alliance Adventure Retreat, specifically for veterans and first responders affected by PTSD. Since then, they’ve aimed to host two to three retreats a year. The family regularly makes trips back to their Langford home to visit family and friends and recruit new applicants for the retreat abroad.

“There’s something special about these veterans being together. They connect on a level that is separate from how civilians interact. I’ve never understood it because I wasn’t in that world. For many, civilian life can be lonely. This gives them the chance to find that community they’re so desperately searching for.”

Each retreat accommodates 15 people over the course of 14 days. It costs $500 CAD for an all-inclusive experience, excluding flights.

In preparation for their next retreat in February, Cynthia was brainstorming ways to raise funds to help veterans who couldn’t afford the cost. That’s when it hit her.

“I love shopping and this is the perfect opportunity,” Cummings says. “Thrift shopping is in style now. Some veterans have dropped by to give their items and it’s really touching to see the community come together.”

And Nifty Thrift Shop was born.

Currently, they’re in a soft opening and are accepting gently-used donations, including men’s and women’s clothing, shoes, and household items.

The grand opening at 694 Goldstream Ave. is Nov. 1 at 10 a.m.

aaron.guillen@goldstreamgazette.com


@iaaronguillen
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Cynthia Cummings plans to have the grand opening for her non-profit thrift shop on Nov. 1 at 10 a.m. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)

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