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A Model for Sharing

FullCircleThe logo is cheerful and upbeat: a red, white and black mandala. It shows the ancient Chinese symbols of the forces of yin and yang – the passive, negative and the active, positive, in the center of the circle. At first, appearing opposite, these forces are actually interconnected and interdependent and give rise to each other.

White letters spell out “Full Circle Trade & Thrift,” which is the name of the two-year-old enterprise of Bill and Barbara Packard. It is located south of the tracks on South Beaver Street. Their graphic designer, Julie Sullivan, came up with the name that honors the concept of completing a cycle and coming back to beginnings.

The motto of the store, “Complete the circle; keep the cash in town,” echoes this unique model of giving, sharing and receiving that the couple has envisioned to inspire the community here to donate, to shop and to volunteer.

The aim is to help sustain programs that promote and enrich the local arts, education, recreation and social services in the Flagstaff area.

The Packards have been married for 44 years and moved to Flagstaff from Southern California in 1978, having met while they were students at California Polytechnic, San Luis Obispo.

Bill ran a contracting business here for 30 years, Packard and Sons Development, Inc. He began with concrete work and ended up building many second homes in areas such as Munds Park, where the couple lived for years.

These days, although retired, they spend many hours each week at Full Circle. “I never thought of this as what we’d be doing when we retired,” said Bill, 65. “We’re not cruise folks.”

“…or golfers,” added Barbara, 66. “I wonder what guys do all day when they don’t have a project like this,” her husband agreed.

However, the world of non-profits is not new to them. Barbara ran the Saint Vincent de Paul Society thrift store for 11 years, and Bill helped start the Poore Medical Clinic.

The non-profit is also working closely with four partners in the community: Flagstaff Arts Council, Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra, The Literacy Center and Sunshine Rescue Mission.

“Full Circle is a great non-profit,” said John Tannous, executive director of Flagstaff Arts Council. “But more than that, it’s a great business model. We don’t always think about non-profits when it comes to business, but they have a major impact on our economy and lives. Full Circle is a perfect example of that: a good business that invests in community good.”

The partners hope to expand the reach of the Full Circle mission to help even more charities while at the same time promoting area businesses. The way they plan to do this is through a program called Cash For Local Change (CFLC).

“We want to have 50 businesses participating by the end of this year,” Bill said. “We’re all in this together. That’s what we like about this; it’s Flagstaff-based.”

The concept is of co-promotion, with a different charity featured each month. “We get new customers brought to us every month by the charity we support,” he added.

Since November 2012, Full Circle has donated more than $200,000 to local charities. Some of the non-profits that have benefited from donations through Full Circle are the Museum of Northern Arizona, Grand Canyon Youth, Victim Witness Services, Friends of Flagstaff’s Future and Flagstaff Light Opera Company.

In March, the Full Circle model is adding this additional element: Cash for Local Change (CFLC). This newer percent-of-cash-sales program was first developed by Paul Moir, one of the owners of Criollo Latin Kitchen on North San Francisco Street. The concept is for customers to use cash to make purchases at local businesses instead of using credit cards. Credit cards send two to five percent of local money out of the state. Participating CFLC businesses donate one percent of cash sales into a community fund that provides grant opportunities for artists and creative groups.

Full Circle has assumed leadership of this program that was recently administered by the Flagstaff Arts Council. Under the leadership of the Arts Council, it grew to 10 active member businesses.

“Now that Full Circle is taking the lead with Cash For Local Change, the program can grow to encompass the entire community,” Tannous said. “Full Circle has the reach and the vision to help the program become a major community movement. More importantly, they will make the ‘Local Change’ part of the program a priority.”

Participating businesses sign a one-year contract, agreeing to the terms of the CFLC program. In turn, Full Circle agrees to promote the business with advertising and marketing help.

The couple took over the Really Good Stuff thrift store when the 3,000-square-foot space became available.

“Basically, we took over the non-profit,” Bill said. “We started to think how we could grow it into something more. We project that by mid-2016, we’ll give away about a half million dollars.”

“It’s just snowballed,” Barbara continued.

Another 2,000 feet were recently added upstairs to accommodate Furniture Recirculator, where larger items are displayed and sold. Auctions are also conducted on the first Saturday of each month by Col. Russell Mann, auctioneer, located in at the Red Door, 2 S. Beaver St., Suite 130.

“In just two years, we kept needing more and more space,” Barbara said.

Bill said Barbara’s skills at Saint Vincent translate well to the showrooms at Full Circle.

“She did such a great job there,” he said. “She’s magical as to how she can recruit the right people and get them to show up here.”

About 50 volunteers, as well as three staff members, add their energies to the considerable enthusiasm of the couple, creating a powerful center of activity and innovation.

Barbara always had a clear vision of how she wanted to run the store. “My idea with thrift stores is, why can’t they be nice like regular stores,” she said. “This is how our products are going to be shown. We’re going to have clean items; we’re going to display them and not leave them on the floor.”

Donations are always welcomed and pick up can be arranged with the Stuff the Truck service. Some of the goods needed are furniture, clothing, household items, tools, jewelry, small appliances, lamps, toys, linens, bikes, decor, books, art, music and movies.

“We might not have cash for a donation, but we all have stuff at home we don’t need,” Barbara said.

Their vision is truly coming full circle. “Our object is to net as much money as possible so we can give to these charities,” Bill said. “It’s caught on, too; now when we write a check for $14,000, there’s no strings attached.”

Family is also important to the Packards. They have three grown children, Ali, 39, who lives in Portland, Oregon, Melanie, 38, in Las Vegas, and B.J., 29, is a Northern Arizona University graduate and lives in Phoenix. They also have two grandchildren. Their greatest sorrow was when their oldest son, Bill Packard IV, died at age 16 in a car accident.

Full Circle hours of operation are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. The Furniture Recirculator facility is open on a drop-in basis every day from noon to 4 p.m. Visit the store at 2 S. Beaver St., Suite 100, or call 928-214-1094. Visit the website at FBN

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