News: Loyal - New Thrift Store Opening (Jan 2019)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Oudenhoven, Morrow, Brice, Roberto, Williams, Hug

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 12/19/2018

New Thrift Store Opening in Partnership with House of Mercy (Loyal – 2019)

New Thrift Store Opening in Partnership With House of Mercy

(Photo of New store in Loyal)

The old Appletree Preschool building in Loyal will soon open as “Second Chances Thrift Shop and Training Center,” an offshoot of the House of Mercy, a shelter for women and children. Women staying at the house of Mercy will be able to work at the thrift shop to earn income. Valerie Brecht/Clark County Press

By Valerie Brecht

The House of Mercy (HoM), a shelter for women and children in Loyal, has already impacted the lives of many people – of those who stay at the home and of the volunteers. A new project will only multiply that impact.

The HoM is opening a thrift store in the old Appletree Preschool building on Main Street. The women staying at the HoM will be able to work at the store to support themselves. The HoM is part of the Beyond Shelter program of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of La Crosse.

“We are not a homeless shelter. We are a beyond shelter and the difference is we work a program with our women, six months to a year, to get them whole and well and able to provide for themselves,” explained Father Tim Oudenhoven, who serves on the HoM board. “It’s not just housing; it’s not just a free handout; it’s a program of rehabilitation, healing [and] dignity.”

“So, this thrift store really works in line with that in that this is something that they’re giving back and doing for their future and to help other people, too. The best way to get well is to help other people get well. The best way to really receive help is to help others, and that is really what we’re about.”

The new thrift store will be the first of its kind in the diocese in that it’s directly connected to a beyond shelter. Judy Morrow, director of the HoM, has wanted to start a thrift store like this in Loyal pretty much ever since the HoM opened in 2016. She got the idea because of Love, Inc., a non-profit that she helped to found in her hometown of Burlington.

Love, Inc.’s mission is to “connect those needing help with available resources.” It started as a single thrift store and has expanded to multiple store, including a kid’s store, a clothing and linen shop and boutique. Funds from the stores help support Love Inc.’s community programs, including a food pantry, medical supply closet, evening meals for families, Social Services and others.

It has taken a while for Morrow’s dream to come to fruition. Oudenhoven has played a big role. He is the priest for St. Bernard Parish in Abbotsford and took the place of Father Brice (former priest for Loyal, Greenwood and Willard) on the HoM board after Brice was transferred to another parish. Oudenhoven, who has experience working with jail ministry, homeless shelters and food pantries, was happy to get involved with the HoM.

“The first meeting I attended for the HoM board, which was last summer, at the board meeting Judy had talked about the thrift store for a while. So, I asked the question of Roberto, who’s the director of the diocese – so, what holds us up on doing a thrift store? And he basically told me, ‘We need a business plan.’ So, I was like, ‘I’ll do that, What’s it look like?’” said Oudenhoven.

Oudenhoven conducted a feasibility study and did case studies on six different thrift stores around the area, including St. Vincent de Paul stores, to find how they got started, what they did well, their policies and more. He then put together a business plan for the Loyal thrift store. Once the HoM board got the go ahead from Catholic Charities, they started looking for a building.

Loyal Mayor Dave Williams helped the HoM get in contact with Jen Hug, who owns the Appletree building. Hug and her husband were supportive of the idea and so they moved things forward. Hug’s husband was able to do some carpentry work for the space.

The HoM will rent the bottom part of the building as a store. The staff will continue to store items in the basement of the HoM as well as at the old convent at St. Anthony’s Church in Loyal. The store will be called “Second Chances Thrift Shop and Training Center.”

“It’s going to be called second chances because that’s what we’re all about,” said Morrow.

Eventually, the women who are living at the HoM will be able to work at Second Chances.

The plan for the program is that they will get credit for however much time they worked, and it will go into an account for them,” said Morrow. “So, that way, if they need to pay car insurance [or other expenses], they can take it out of their account. So, it will be a way for them to make some money and pay off some of those things they need and feel some kind of dignity that they’ve worked for what they’re getting.”

Morrow, said that to start, the store will be open three days a week, including Saturday morning, with plans to gradually expand the hours. People can drop off items to be sold in the entryway of the HoM, 141 Main Street, Loyal, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday thru Friday. Items should be clean and in good condition . Volunteers are needed to receive and sort donations, as well as to clean, perform maintenance work or offer their services such as electrical work or plumbing for the HoM. People may also choose to sponsor a day of operating costs for the HoM. For more information or to volunteer, call 715.743.2885.

The HoM has received a lot of donations since its inception – whether that’s clothes, housewares or other items – so Morrow said she is glad these items will be able to be put to good use.

“Yes, we will still give things away, but the things we can’t give away now will be able to sell for a minimal price and then that money will still go to the programs that we’re working on,” she explained.

Oudenhoven said he was excited for this opportunity for the women at the HoM.

“The women in our program – they really are amazing people and just circumstances and it’s hard. They haven’t had the chances that most people get,” he said. “I look at our women and I’m amazed by their strength and their fortitude and common sense and they’re just – they’re really amazing people and you feel for them because they’ve been dealt a hand that’s very difficult and they’ve been taken advantage of. Poverty is not a choice; it happens to you. It’s thrust upon you.”

Beyond benefitting the women at the HoM, Oudenhoven said there was the potential for people from other organizations to come and work at the store as well. Further, both Morrow and Oudenhoven believe the store will be a great asset to the community as a whole, particularly in Clark County, which is one of the poorest counties per capita in the state.

“We have many families in need in our county,” said Oudenhoven. “So, the thrift store provides a means for people to acquire good used items at a very low price. We also will be offering free things for people who qualify and are in need. … This is an outreach program.

“We’re hoping, because we are a pretty poor county, to really help a lot of people that are struggling with finances,” Morrow concurred.

Morrow said the plan is for the store to be up and running within the next couple of months. She and Oudenhoven are looking forward to how the store will benefit the women who work there and the community. They have a vision of Second Chances being a place that draws the community together by helping people to connect to one another and show compassion to one another.

“When you talk about poverty, there is true economic poverty. But the greatest poverty in our community is not economic; it is an emotional poverty,” said Oudenhoven. “It is lack of love, it’s a lack of people caring for people and it’s a loneliness and isolation. And that’s/ one thing a thrift store like this does, and you know, the HoM does, is to really help people connect with people because that’s when we can really live well.”




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