Surrey resident Karen Kamachi with furry friends outside one of the two RAPS thrift stores she volunteer-manages in Richmond. (Submitted photo)

Surrey resident Karen Kamachi with furry friends outside one of the two RAPS thrift stores she volunteer-manages in Richmond. (Submitted photo)

TELEVISION

Animal-focused ‘Pets & Pickers’ TV series features Surrey woman who runs RAPS thrift stores

The animal hospital’s low-cost veterinary care is funded by the sale of donated items

Karen Kamachi never dreamed that managing a thrift store would lead to her appearance on a TV series.

“It’s not what I expected out of my job,” said the North Surrey resident, who is featured in Discovery Channel’s new “Pets & Pickers,” a docu-series that follows a unique animal hospital in Richmond and two thrift stores that help fund its operation.

Kamachi volunteer-manages the two RAPS thrift stores (Regional Animal Protection Society), also located in Richmond. Proceeds from the sale of donated items fund the organization’s animal hospital, which offers low-cost veterinary care.

“Pets & Pickers,” which debuts Thursday (May 12), shows Kamachi and fellow “pickers” combing through the contents of donated storage lockers.

“I love the treasure hunt of going to a locker. I mean, people have donated whole houses before,” Kamachi explained.

“It’s the best job I’ve ever had, and I’m 60 years old so that’s saying something,” added Kamachi, who once worked as a florist and also program manager for people with disabilities.

Fourteen years ago, Kamachi offered to help RAPS put together a charity gala, and she ended up managing their thrift store.

“Her boundless optimism and ability to learn on the fly helped her exceed expectations in her new role,” a bio says, “and she has since become a master at getting donations, finding buyers and making sure everybody plays nice while they raise funds to help the people and pets that are in need.”

“Pets & Pickers” focuses mostly on the animal hospital and the people who bring their pets there, but also features Kamachi and team at the thrift store.

The first episode of the series shows Kamachi instructing staff to unload “mystery” lockers during a rainstorm, and it doesn’t go well at first.

“I run this store like it’s my own,” she says. “The volunteers who work here, and the animals we serve, are all part of my family. Rain, sleet or hail, nothing stops us.”

One of the lockers contains a vintage organ that excites picker Marty Kramer, who once road-managed The Guess Who and is shown in photos with Neil Young and Billy Idol. Later, the organ is sold to Gord Sauck, who runs Innovative Audio in Surrey.

“I think the thrift stores themselves would make for a great TV show,” Kamachi underlined. “Originally it was going to a be a pickers show with animals, and now it’s the other the way around, with both featured.”

The first show in the series also focuses on Dexter, a dog that has breathing problems so serious, worried owner Michelle travels hours in hopes that RAPS can help pay for urgent surgery. Meanwhile, Halo the Chihuahua discovers more than exercise in the local dog park.

Eight episodes long, “Pets & Pickers” was filmed for close to three years, Kamachi said.

New episodes are available to stream each week on CTV.ca and the CTV App.

A RAPS Pets & Pickers Premiere Event is planned Tuesday (May 10) at Richmond’s Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel Ballroom, starting at 7 p.m. “It’s a fundraiser,” Kamachi noted, with tickets priced at $25 on eventbrite.ca.

Visit RAPS online at rapsbc.com.



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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