Value Village cashier Katie poses for a photo with my travel apparel: $19.96 for two pair of pants, a shirt and a pair of sunglasses. Both Katie and her colleague, Ernie, background, were helpful and polite.

I’ve been in Fairbanks almost six months. I visited Value Village, an Alaska Institution, for the first time on Sunday. I had no idea what I was missing.

I am sold, sold, sold, on Value Village, a type of thrift store with great values…in both senses of the word. It’s motto: Good deeds. Good deals.

On Thursday, I will leave for Fort Irwin and the Mojave Desert with three UAF journalism students who’ve been selected to participate in an embed with soldiers from the 1-25th Stryker Brigade, “The Arctic Wolves,” from local Fort Wainwright. The soldiers are completing their final training and testing before their impending deployment to Afghanistan.

We had a packing list the Army had provided us with suggestions on how to prepare for the three days and three nights we’d spend side-by-side with the soldiers in the field. I’ve spend years working in the Middle East and Africa; unfortunately, all my appropriate clothes are in storage in Oregon. And I’d just spent a sizable sum of money acquiring arctic attire, so I wasn’t in the mood…or in the money…to spend more to get my Mojave on.

Enter Value Village. JR Ancheta, the photojournalism student in our merry band, accompanied me.

I found a pair of men’s rugged khaki cotton trousers with nifty pockets for $5.99. I found another pair of women’s cotton pants in an olive green for $4.99. I got a men’s long-sleeve shirt for ($7.99…drat, I thought is was marked 50% off.) and a pair of perfect sunglasses for 99 cents. I spent $19.96 for my embed wardrobe.

I posed with pride (and a peace sign) with my purchases in front of the store. You can bet I’ll go back and shop again at Value Village.

Cheryl poses for a photo in front of Value Village in Fairbanks, AK, on Sunday, February 13, 2011. Photo by JR Ancheta