Shopping for a good cause

Charity: Church-sponsored thrift stores in Howard County do more than sell old trinkets and used clothing.

October 18, 2002|By Donna W. Payne | Donna W. Payne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Dirty clothes, broken toys, unidentifiable widgets, crummy yard sale leftovers, grass clippings and cardboard boxes.

Area thrift shops operated by religious groups have seen it all. Some of these items are left by their doors during the night. Others are found in the bags of donations that volunteers laboriously sort through to find the good stuff their shops can sell in Howard County.

"We only put out the very nicest of the things we get," said Doris Berger Moore, a volunteer who manages Trinity Episcopal Church's thrift shop in Ellicott City.

That doesn't mean everything else is discarded. Area thrift shop volunteers say that, except for irredeemable trash, almost nothing is wasted.

"We try to find a home for it," Ann West said of donations that cannot be used in the Nearly New Shop run by St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Poplar Springs. West and her co-manager, Phyllis Weston, are volunteers.

Moore said donations not used at Trinity's shop are given to American Rescue Workers in Baltimore and other agencies that serve the needy.

"We never throw anything away," she said.

Community service

Volunteers say the local thrift shops serve the community in a number of ways. They offer inexpensive but good-quality clothing and household items. They provide clothing to individuals who are referred to them by other agencies. And their profits support service programs and other charities.

The large Salvation Army thrift store in Savage sometimes has a queue of cars waiting to drop off donations, manager Lisa Dillon said. On New Year's Eve, for instance, the line extended down the driveway and onto U.S. 1 as donors waited to get receipts for their contributions that could be used for a tax deduction last year.

Proceeds from the Savage store support the Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation Center in Bladensburg, store supervisor Mary Ashby said. The rehabilitation center's work therapy program serves 150 men with drug and alcohol abuse problems.

Donated items that cannot be used in the Savage store are sent for repairs to the Bladensburg center.

"They fix up. They clean up," Ashby said.

Some of the refurbished articles are returned to the Savage store to be sold. Others are offered at a weekday "as is" auction at the rehabilitation center.

Ashby said the Salvation Army would like to add an auction facility at the Savage location someday.

The Trinity Episcopal Gift and Thrift Shop on Old Montgomery Road occupies a building that dates from 1872. Moore said the structure was used for Sunday school classes when Trinity had a branch chapel at that site for parishioners who did not want to travel the distance by horse-drawn carriage to the main church in Elkridge.

Many of the shop's customers are regulars, Moore said. Some come looking for something special. Moore recalls a high school student who was searching for a prom dress the day before the dance. She found one for $20.

"It fit her like it was made for her," Moore said.

At St. Paul's tidy little thrift shop, West calls her customers "honey" and "sweetie" and carefully wraps their purchases.

Young patrons are allowed to choose a used toy from a box upon each visit.

Keeping kids occupied

West said the toy box keeps the children occupied while the grown-ups shop.

Seasonal items are displayed prominently. A center table is decorated with a string of orange lights, and it holds orange and black Halloween trinkets and knickknacks in fall colors.

In January, the shop moved from its home in a church member's barn ("Bob's Barn") to its location at the back of St. Paul's old-fashioned church building in the northwest corner of the county.

The Christian Women's Thrift Shop, which has a policy of not commenting publicly about its work, occupies a large building in Ellicott City. The shop has been open for many years and is staffed by volunteers from churches throughout the county.

Thrift shops

Howard Thrift Shops Operated by Religious Organizations

St. Paul's Nearly New Shop

St. Paul's Episcopal Church

16457 Old Frederick Road, Poplar Springs

410-489-4411

Open: noon to 3 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday.

Trinity Episcopal Gift and Thrift Shop

Trinity Episcopal Church

6010 Old Montgomery Road, Ellicott City (not at church location)

410-799-9175

Open: 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday and Saturday.

Salvation Army Thrift Store and Donation Center

The Salvation Army

10350 Guilford Ave., Savage

301-776-4888

Open: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Christian Women's Thrift Shop

Christian Services of Howard County Inc.

3267 Pine Orchard Lane, Ellicott City

410-465-1060

Open: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, and the second and fourth Saturday.

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