At the front counter of his Snoqualmie thrift store, Don Baunsgard keeps a photo book of the people he has met — and the more than 120 water wells he has helped build in Uganda over the years.
Since a life-changing trip to the country in 2006, Baunsgard has raised well over $200,000 through a series of yard sales that went directly to Planet Changer, a nonprofit founded in the Snoqualmie Valley that works to build wells and bring clean water to Uganda.
In 2020, Baunsgard made the jump from yard sales to a full store, opening the Treasures in Heaven Thrift Store. In just under 10 months, the store has already donated over $120,000 to Planet Changer and other Valley nonprofits.
“We’re just trying to do some good in the world,” he said. “Trying to be a light for as many people as we can — to just do what we were called to do.”
Baunsgard, a man of faith and member of the Snoqualmie Valley Alliance Church, was reading outside in 2013 when he said he heard God’s voice tell him to build a giant yard sale to raise money for Planet Changer.
“I know that sounds funny,” he said. “But we had our first yard sale at North Bend Elementary and raised $25,000.”
In 2017, after years of successful yard sales, Baunsgard said God gave him another vision, but this time for a nonprofit thrift shop that would bring in funds for Planet Changer and other Valley nonprofits.
After three and a half years of searching for a building, Baunsgard, and his wife, Lena, secured a spot at 8036 Fall Ave. SE in Snoqualmie and officially opened the store in March 2020.
Treasures in Heaven is not like other thrift stores. For one thing, the store is run almost entirely by volunteers. Baunsgard, a former school bus driver, is the store’s only paid employee. All of the money the store makes from selling its donated items, minus bills and utilities, goes directly to nonprofits, he said.
Another change at the shop is that none of the store’s items have set prices. Baunsgard is critical of stores that mark prices up out of greed and said his store wants to be the opposite of that. All shirts and blouses, for example, are sold for $1 while jackets are sold for $5 — regardless of original price or brand. Some items are even given away for free.
“We want anybody who walks through that door, no matter if they’re poor or rich, to have an opportunity to purchase a jacket or something they want,” Baunsgard said. “If they can’t afford it, we’ll work with them.”
So far in 2021, of the $120,000 raised, the store has given nearly $60,000 to Planet Changer, $1,300 to Care Point Clinic, $10,500 to Trail Youth Coffee, and $10,000 to the SnoValley Food Bank. The store also helped give away over 200 Christmas toys this year and continues to offer $25 vouchers to homeless residents.
Baunsgard, a Valley native who graduated from Mt. Si High School, attributes the store’s success to the relationships and trust he has developed with the community while living here and leading his yard sales.
“The beautiful thing about it is that it’s a complete trifecta of community to make this work,” he said. “If I don’t get donations from people who believe in what we’re doing, I don’t have anything to sell. If I don’t have anything to sell and people don’t come in to buy things, then I’ve got no money to give back.”
Although the work is fulfilling, Baunsgard is often so busy trying to secure donations, frequently working on his days off, that he has little time to reflect on his achievements. Still, he holds back tears in some instances and speaks with vigor recalling all the people he has helped both locally and abroad.
One example he recalled was when a $500 specialized bike, designed for someone in a wheelchair, was donated to the store. Baunsgard said he was trying to find the right person when a woman and her disabled daughter, who hadn’t ridden a bike before, walked into the shop, bought the bike and began riding it around the parking lot.
“She was crying and I was crying and you know those kinds of moments happen here all the time,” Baunsgard said. “Our goal is to continually meet the needs of the people that are hurting most and loving them in anyway we can.”