We’ve all faced the issue of what to do with clothing or household items we no longer need or use but are too good to throw away. Finding a nearby thrift store or donation center to take them to can be challenging. That’s especially true if you live in a remote mountain community. Fortunately, residents and businesses in the San Bernardino Mountains don’t have to look far.

One Person’s Trash . . .

Running Springs is a town of over 4,800 residents located 6,000 feet up in the mountain range above San Bernardino. It is a gateway community to popular resorts such as Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake. There is no landfill in the mountains; the nearest is 30 miles away in Redlands. Instead, the County of San Bernardino provides a transfer station called Heaps Peak in Running Springs. Here, businesses and residents can drop off their trash and unwanted items to transfer to a landfill elsewhere.

. . . Is Another’s Treasure

Athens operates nine transfer stations at remote locations throughout the County. Heaps Peak offers something the other transfer stations do not have: an onsite thrift store, the Drop and Shop. Here, residents can drop off unwanted items that they don’t want to discard in the landfill. Items suitable for resale are spruced up and offered for resale at a fraction of their original cost. Items that are not salvageable are sent to the landfill.

The store enjoys strong community support. “Residents appreciate that these items are not being thrown away,” Heaps Peak Operations Supervisor Carlos Rodriguez said. “They know their donations get a second life.”

A Community Resource

The store has been a fixture in the community for decades. Originally named One Man’s Treasure, it was previously owned by a local resident. It is a popular spot for shoppers looking for a bargain. Most are mountain residents; others come from nearby valley or desert cities and as far away as Los Angeles.

The store occupies an unassuming fabricated steel building roughly the length of a football field. It has a walk-in entrance, but most customers come in through the loading bay, which is open during the day. Customers can back up their vehicles to the loading bay entrance to load or unload items.

Expect the Unexpected

Inside the Drop and Shop is a variety of gently – and some not so gently – used items. Donations run the gamut, including clothing, furniture, appliances, electronics, games, golf clubs, vehicle parts, pictures, records, and books – lots of books. Even snow blowers. “Every day brings something different. You never know what’s going to come in,” said Tammy Bergendahl, store clerk for the past three years. “As long as it’s in good condition and someone else can reuse it, then we’ll take it.”

Items commonly come from people moving into or out of the area, business closings, and estate sales. Some rare works of art have been dropped off, to be snatched up for a pittance by shoppers with a keen eye. One of the largest donations recently purchased was a canoe.

The Real Mission: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The Drop and Shop is a valued community resource that helps residents reuse items. Beyond that, the store helps to fulfill local recycling efforts to preserve and protect the mountain environment. And it provides an alternative to dumping for bulky items. “The ultimate goal of the store,” Carlos said, “is to divert even more material from the landfill.” The Drop and Shop fulfills that mission well.

For more information, visit www.athensservices.com.