It is then, in a dawning moment when one realizes that, sometimes, these shopping trips to the thrift shop are about more than just being thrifty.
Sande Thompson's closet may be full of name-brand clothes but she hasn't bought anything new in 20 years.
A self-professed thrift-shop devotee, Thompson spends all of her lunch hours from Holst Pharmacy rummaging through the new selection of used clothes at the Good Shepherd Thrift Shop and Food Pantry, 304 E. Fourth.
Her passion for thrift shopping is contagious. So much so that her husband, Rick Thompson, now thrifts with her.
On a recent Saturday, while her husband tried on slacks in a dressing room, Sande Thompson sifted through the racks of clothes.
After looking over a tan and white double knit seersucker pantsuit (the type your grandmother probably wore in the 1970s), Thompson decided it was too large for her. "If that was my size I'd be all over it," she said.
She likes the old-fashioned heavy double knit material.
"It's comfortable and it's even fireproof," Thompson said with a chuckle. "That's why it lasts forever."
Indeed, it's possible that the thrift shop clothes could seemingly last a long time, if not forever. There's no telling how many times things have been recycled.
For instance, when Thompson tires of the garments, she donates them back to the thrift shop, and they're put on the racks to be sold again.
Thus the cycle continues.
Shirley Sheaffer, one of the three managers of the thrift shop, said the shop, which originated in 1987 in a downtown storefront, is operated solely by volunteers.
"We have a board of directors that includes an invitation to two representatives from each church in town," Sheaffer said.
About 70 volunteers, some of them behind-the-scenes workers, help run the operation.
"Everyone who works here, even the managers, are volunteers," Sheaffer said. "No one is paid."
All income stems from the sale of clothing and related items, and appliances and furniture, she said. Last year's sales and other donations provided roughly $46,000 to the thrift shop, Sheaffer said.
A lot of that money is turned around in the community.
"We help with utilities and rent," she said. "We will pay directly to the utility company or the landlord."
Sheaffer said they try to limit the amount of utility or rental assistance to $150 per household once every six months. Most of the assistance goes to residents of southern Leavenworth County, and some to residents of Jefferson County. She also noted that even though the clothes are offered at thrift shop prices, say $1 for a dress or pair of slacks, the shop will give clothing to needy families.
"That is also part of our assistance," Sheaffer said. "We give away clothing, appliances and furniture. That way we're able to help them out."
To ensure the continued success of the thrift shop, the group is always on the lookout for more volunteers.
"It takes a lot of man hours to run it," Sheaffer said.
Also, she said, they could use more room.
"We have outgrown our space, obviously," Sheaffer said of the two-story former church the group owns. "It's crowded."
Indeed, it seems every inch of the building is filled. And more keeps coming as area residents continue to drop off goods each day.
On a recent Saturday morning, when the doors open at 9, shoppers enter the building. Soon there is laughter as the regulars visit with the volunteers, and even children who live in the area come on their own, scoping out the toys and sporting goods.
As Thompson looks over the clothes, Bob Kasper, one of the volunteers, comes over to greet her.
"Every time I hear her voice, I have to come out and say, 'hi,'" he said. "She's such a friendly, outgoing person."
A few minutes later, one of the volunteers brings Thompson a pantsuit that looks like new.
"You should try this on," she said. "I think it will fit you."
Indeed, the pantsuit fit perfectly.
When Sande and Rick Thompson finish their shopping, they check out at the front desk.
For about a dozen pieces of clothing, including a leather jacket for Rick Thompson and blouses and skirts for Sande Thompson, the couple pays a little more than $16.
Sande Thompson said she likes shopping for clothes at the shop.
"It makes you happy when someone comes up and says that's a cute outfit and you know it didn't cost you $300," she said.
Besides, Thompson said, she likes the feel of old clothes.
"They're soft, not stiff, and you know, since they've already been washed, that they'll still fit after you wash them," she said.
Then, ready to head to the next part of their shopping escapade, Thompson glances toward the stairs that lead to the basement, where among other things, footwear is sold. "Shoes," she says excitedly. "It's shoe time."
What's it all about
In the basement a few minutes later, perusing the open shelves near the shoes, Thompson picks up a doll,
turns the knob on the base attached to the doll and places it back on a shelf. The doll a makes a languid spin as the tune, "The shadow of your smile" plays on the music box.
There is a wistfulness in her eyes as she watches.
"This place brings back so many memories," Thompson said, looking at the shelves of old china, some of it chipped, worn books, toys and lamps. She pauses momentarily, looking around the shop.
"You see things that your parents and grandparents would have had, things that you played with as kids," she said, "and you remember when your own kids had them and sometimes it makes you cry."
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