Contact: Sherry Schultz

Email: eshultz@eaglecom.net

Kansas and Nebraska are home to a number of unqiue ministries. Over the past few months, Rev. Carl Ellis, director of the Center for Small Membership Churches, toured two successful thrift stores that are having a big impact in their communities. These stores have sevearl things in common:

  1. They are in communities with great need.
  2. The thrift stores have upscale design.  Racks are not jammed full, shelves are not cluttered, and they have a washing machine, dryer,  iron and ironing board to make sure that clothes still have life.
  3. Clothes that need to be turned into rags are shipped out.
  4. The people who run the stores keep the main thing the main thing.  They are disciples of Jesus Christ helping to bring God’s Kingdom to those they serve both at home and abroad.
  5. They are community based.

Here is the story of St. Francis United Methodist Church’s Thrift Store. From the very start, God seemed to be with church members during the process of getting moved from a couple of Sunday school rooms to a former clothing store downtown.  Church member Sherry Schultz says of course, church members had concerns—how will we get enough volunteers, can we pay the utilities, will we have enough donations, etc.

In October of 2005, the thrift store opened, and things have just gone crazy ever since, Schultz said.  We have focused on putting out clean, usable items at a reasonable price.  We wash some clothing and dishes, steam or press all the clothes and do not let the racks get too full.  We have customers from more than a 50 mile radius every week, and literally get donations from all over the nation.  We are open Thursday and Friday 9-6, Saturday 9-1.  We would love to be open every day, but do not have enough volunteers, however, customers are welcome to come in whenever we are there working.

In slightly more than 6 years, we have given away just under $250,000. Much of the money goes to local causes like fund-raisers for people with health or other problems, Senior Center, Schools, Hospital, Nursing Home, other organizations, many things involving youth, missions trips for local residents, and much more.  We also contribute to Methodist Missions and other national and world-wide missions. We help our own church with projects.   It is so much fun and exciting to have money to give away!

We are run totally by volunteers, including people from other denominations in our area.  The pay we receive is in the form of socializing with other volunteers and customers and the gratification of helping those in need.  It’s also fun to shop for treasures!

While it is certainly rewarding and worth the effort, I would forewarn people who are thinking of doing such a project, that it takes a tremendous amount of time and work and it will be more than you imagine!  It takes 30 or more people a week (that includes those who do multiple shifts) and as the unofficial manager, I spend 40 plus hours a week working.

For more information on the St. Francis United Methodist Thrift Store email Sherry Schultz at: eschultz@eaglecom.net

The Harlan County Caring Cupboard in Alma, Neb. opened 30 years ago as a thrift store.  In  2006, they moved into an old meat locker plant in Alma. One of the members had a friend who worked at a mall store who understood how to design the store for maximum eye appeal.  The store is attractively set up just like a JC Penney’s with clothing, small household items, books, knick-knacks toys and more.  Like JC Penney’s there are different sections for different items and a specific room for children’s clothing and toys. 

The Harlan County Caring Cupboard also is the on-site food pantry for the county. Last year in addition to passing out commodities, they purchased $24,000 worth of food that was shared with families in need. Money goes back into the food pantry.

In 2010, the last year for which final numbers were available, The Caring Cupboard  served 86 families representing 266 people of all ages in Harlan County. The county’s population is 3,100 people.  There were 50 volunteers from different community churches serving more than 4,000 volunteer hours.  They have one full time employee who helps organize and supervise the Caring Cupboard. 

In town of Alma in Harlan County Nebraska the Country Cupboard is truly economic development at its finest as Christians from many churches unite for service to Christ.

For more information on The Caring Cupboard contact Jane Blum at soulonfirefor_god@yahoo.com.