At age 20, thrift shop continues to flourish
Good Shepherd volunteers mark anniversary
From pillowcases to printer cables, toys, clothing and even a George Foreman Grill, whatever you might be looking for, you may be able to find at the Good Shepherd Thrift Shop and Food Bank.
This year marks the 20th anniversary for the volunteer-run thrift store, which serves families in the Leavenworth and Jefferson county areas.
To commemorate all of the hard work of the past two decades, around 60 current volunteers -- as well as some who were there at the beginning -- gathered Thursday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church for an appreciation lunch.
The idea for Good Shepherd began on March 15, 1987, in a meeting to discuss the possibility of opening a thrift shop run by volunteers from all churches in Tonganoxie. The idea was to build bonds between the church and its members and to help out the local community.
"Somebody said, 'It will never work, putting all of these churches together,' but you have to put the churches together, this is what it's all about," said Janet Ambrose, who was the first manager of the shop.
Since then the shop has been surviving on monetary donations as well as donations of clothing and other items, which it in turn sells at a discounted price.
The shop has moved around town as its inventory began to get bigger and bigger.
One of the first locations for the shop was inside the old Cox jewelry building, close to where Vintage Soap and Bath is now located.
"At that time it was a long skinny hallway, but that's where we started." Ambrose said.
Even with a floor space, the shop still needed to use the garage of one of the volunteers in order to fit all of its merchandise.
On July 15, 1988, there was an official ribbon cutting ceremony when the thrift shop moved to its current location just across from Tonganoxie Elementary School.
Once the store was settled, volunteers were shocked to see how much business and how much support they were getting.
"People were coming in from all over," Ambrose said. "People were coming in from Oskaloosa, Leavenworth and Lawrence to shop here. They had their own stores, but we were glad to have them here and supporting us."
Today, people continue to come from out of town to visit the thrift shop.
Michelle Toutges, a former Tonganoxie High School graduate who now lives in Olathe, said she was happy to come back every once in a while to pick up anything she needs at home at a great price.
On Monday she found a dresser she wanted.
The price? $10.
"There's always a good deal," she said.
Not only does the thrift store bargain merchandise, it also offers assistance to help less fortunate families. Every other month, families in need can pick up a donation of food from the shop. The shop also gives financial assistance to families several times during the year. Families who receive donations are considered on a case-by-case basis.
One particular family that the store helped sticks in Ambrose's mind even to this day.
She said many years ago there was a lady who had a husband that was in jail and she couldn't keep up and provide for herself and her children.
"She had nothing, it's so heart breaking. These people didn't even have water," Ambrose said.
Besides helping out with food, volunteers at the shop contacted someone who could take water to the family, and they gathered a group to go out the house and chop some firewood.
Not only does the Good Shepherd provide for families like the one Ambrose remembers, but in return it ends up helping many of the volunteers by giving them something to look forward to each week.
Waneta Karriker has been working there ever since her husband died more than 4 years ago. She has used her time at the thrift store to keep her life busy and structured after retirement.
"It's good that we are helping people, but it also helps us. It's a blessing both ways," Karriker said.
The shop continues to grow and soon enough it will be about time to move from their current location to an even bigger one. Last year the shop made more than $89,000 in sales. The board that runs the thrift shop, which consists of two members from each participating church, wants to set aside around 10 percent of the money made from sales and put it into a special building fund that will later finance a new location.