Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
September 3, 2001
Thrift store keeps Church visible in Stony Plain
Store provides hospitality, clothes and a place to serve
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
STONY PLAIN — St. Francis Thrift Store is no ordinary hand-me-down shop. Its mission is simple but Christian in nature.
"We try to be a presence of what Christ has called us to be in a manner and example of St. Francis," Tom Williams, managing director told the WCR.
The store donates back to the community some of what it receives. It gives to individuals in need and to other organizations formed to help people.
After the parish in Stony Plain closed last year, the idea of maintaining a visible Catholic presence in the community came up.
Williams and other Catholics brainstormed on how to go about it. Being members of the Third Order Franciscans, Williams and his wife, Mary Ellen, thought of forming a Franciscan group. Others did not buy into it.
St. Francis Community Ministries, which runs the shop is registered as a non-profit corporate structure but its management is working on getting charitable status so they can issue tax receipts.
"But of course our Catholic and Franciscan heritage become integral to what we are doing in our outreach and ministry," Williams said.
A lot of people's lives are touched by the store.
"The thrift store is a vehicle that gathers the people to work in service of others," said Williams, a retired businessman.
Thirty volunteers serve the store, which is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Most volunteers are retired seniors who were greatly affected by the parish closing, said Williams.
They come to the store and serve others not just by assisting them with the sales but by being a joyful presence for them.
Bert Ogden, an 87-year old volunteer, comes regularly. Since his wife died in December coming to the shop has become a good way of spending his time. He loves being in the shop where he can chat with people and share his inexhaustible stories.
"I think the other sense of our ministry is that those who volunteer feel a sense of belonging," said Williams. At one point, others thought they were trying to start up their own church.
"We're trying to live together and, in our particular community, be witnesses of Christ," Williams said.
A hospitality nook is set up for the people. Anyone is welcome to stay, visit with each other and share a cup of coffee provided by the shop.
The same building houses the Parkland Search and Rescue. This organization was homeless until St. Francis Community Ministries welcomed them and assigned a room where they can store their equipment.
Returning the favour, the search and rescue group cleaned and repainted the mezzanine of the building, which now serves as a meeting place not just for the community but for others as well.
"We even celebrate the Eucharist here," said Williams.
People's response to the shop has been overwhelming, says Williams.
"We have difficulty processing the amount of goods we receive," he said.
Twice a week they empty a trailer filled with donations.
They received help from companies like Competition Chev Olds, that supplied the trailer used for drop-off donations.
Cybernetics Technologies donated computer and software, display cabinets and a great deal of time in helping them set up for business. Image West of Spruce Grove helped with the signage while All Weather Shelter erected the shelter the store bought for additional storage.
The store sits on a 5,000-square-foot lot, which the group leases from the owners of Parkland Farm Equipment.
At present, the store is the biggest of its kind in Stony Plain.
"We're the Value Village of Stony Plain, because we've got everything," said Williams.
The store sells clothes, records, accessories, toys, furniture, antiques, appliances among others.
Delivery can be arranged for those who do not have the means of transporting the goods they purchased. They also pick up donations from people who do not have transportation.
With the good business the store is receiving since it opened in June last year, Williams projects that in five years they will be able to start their long term goal, which is to build a seniors' complex.
From the earnings of the store they pay their bills and save money for future projects. Their hope is to buy the adjoining lot and erect a seniors' complex with a chapel.
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