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Meet the Humans: Karen Kamachi

Volunteer Thrift Stores manager keeps things running – and it’s the greatest job she’s ever had!

To the RAPS team, Karen Kamachi has ALWAYS been a star. But starting this week, her smiling face and forthright mouth will star in the new RAPS-focused TV series Pets & Pickers!

As the manager of the RAPS Thrift Stores, Karen oversees one of the organization’s most important revenue-generating sources. We are especially proud of the multiple benefits our thrift stores provide – helping save the planet by diverting tons and tons of materials annually from the landfill, helping households of every income level access quality products at kookoo low prices, and raising money that has allowed RAPS to save and improve the lives of thousands and thousands of animals.

Karen first got involved with RAPS when she was dragged along to the RAPS Cat Sanctuary by her bff Margaret Leathley, who is a longtime RAPS board member and volunteer. Margaret wanted the fun job of feeding the cats, so she voluntold Karen to do the dirty work of scooping the litter boxes. It was the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship at RAPS!

Tell us about yourself!

I’ve been lots of things. I have been a florist – and I’m a published florist. That means I have done flower arrangements that have been featured in brochures or magazines.

That was back in the ’80s before there was the Internet. I was a florist for a really long time and I owned my own flower shops. I was also contracted by flower shops who didn’t do their own in-house arrangements.

But I have arthritis and so I can’t work in a cold environment. So I went back to college and I got a degree in working with people with disabilities. That was far too stressful, especially when existing health issues flared up again.

I would also help Margaret with special events, like if they were showing bunnies at a pet store I would go with Margaret and show bunnies to kids or whatever.

Because I am a florist, Margaret shot her mouth off to Eyal [Lichtmann, RAPS’ CEO] that that’s what I can do, so I helped design the floral arrangements and decorations for the big RAPS gala a few years ago.

One of Eyal’s friends said, “Somebody should hire her!”

Then the thrift store manager’s job came open and he said, “Do you want the job?” – and here I am, four years later.

What is your favourite part of job?

That’s hard. I love this job. I’ve done lots of things over my 60 years but this by far is my favorite job that I’ve ever had my whole life. I’m tossed between my staff and my volunteers being my favorite part – or trying to figure out what that thing is. [A lot of items donated to the thrift stores are mysterious things that take some sleuthing to figure out their purpose.]

What is your least favorite part of the job?

Space! I am constantly chasing space. I can’t take 10 good couches because I don’t have any place to put them.

What do you do in your little bit of spare time?

I run an AirBnB at Cultus Lake.

What’s your story?

I was born in Edmonton and moved here when I was 10, to North Delta. Then I got married the first time and move back to Alberta for about a decade. Then I was getting a divorce and my best friend from high school, I phoned her up and said I’m coming back to B.C. to visit my mom so let’s meet for dinner. She said, no, but Chris will take you out. This was her ex-husband, who I knew from high school. So he took me on a yacht, fed me some champagne and I’ve been with Chris ever since.

It wasn’t as fancy as it sounds. His friend lived on a yacht and they took a whole pile of friends out to watch the Benson & Hedges Symphony of Fire. That was 27 years ago.

Why do you do what you do?

I do it for the love of animals.

I have a tattoo on my arm — they talk about it on the TV show — and it’s all the pets that I’ve lost over my life. Actually, I lost my cat Tigger two weeks ago. She was 19, though, she lived a good long life.

The other thing I love about RAPS is the family – the real family and the chosen family. My daughter works here, my husband throws in computers, Eyal’s daughter is here — it’s family. It’s why we’re still here. It’s why we earn little or nothing. It’s for a really great cause – and to find great stuff.

What was it like filming the TV show?

We worked our guts out in rain, sleet, hail … I froze my butt off. It’s very wonderful to see a three-year project come to fruition. Remember, we were filming the pilot at the beginning of the pandemic. It’s really a work of love.