Thrift store returns to its roots for temporary haven

Kent's longtime thrift store has temporarily come home in hopes of finding something permanent.

St. James Episcopal Church’s spacious gym will serve as a transitional home for its thrift store. The Rev. Joyce Parry Moore

Kent’s longtime thrift store has temporarily come home in hopes of finding something permanent.

For more than 40 years, the St. James Thrift Shop has been a part of the Kent community, a store of bargains that generously serves many people in need. The nonprofit, volunteer-staffed store, a ministry of St. James Episcopal Church, struggled financially but persevered to stay open at various downtown locations, the past eight-plus years occupying a small building at 314 W. Meeker St.

But in January the group was notified that the building had been sold and their lease would expire in March. Store operators and volunteers scrambled to find an affordable spot.

They were unsuccessful.

“It was very difficult leaving,” said Dick Wilson, thrift shop manager. “I’m a newcomer (to the store) but we have many volunteers who spent a lot of time there. I highly admire our volunteers who have worked on it for so long. … So it was really depressing, very difficult to leave.”

The church’s vestry decided to step in, offering the congregation’s gymnasium to accommodate the shop’s large inventory of clothing, household items, toys, antiques, furniture, appliances and other wares. The thrift shop, at 24447 94th Ave. S., hosts a grand re-opening Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with refreshments, music and activities, and will be open on the first and third Saturdays of each month at the same hours.

The spot is spacious, transitional, as church leaders continue to search for a new location.

“It gives us a chance to get new volunteers, to talk again about what’s our mission and what are we going to do moving forward,” said The Rev. Joyce Parry Moore, who joined the parish as its new rector on Dec. 1. “It helps us learn and grow and when we are ready, (we) hope the right space will open up.”

The thrift shop serves an important mission, Parry Moore said, offering good deals on merchandise, the net proceeds of which support the community in need, whether it’s direct aid available through the church’s outreach center or mini grants that are extended to 15-20 nonprofit human service organizations and partners. The church’s outreach center served about 1,700 people last year, Parry Moore said.

Church leaders hope to work collaboratively with someone or an organization and support a new home for the thrift shop.

Finding a venue with affordable rent has been difficult.

“We are going to need to find a philanthropist who is willing to work with us,” Wilson admitted.

The thrift store has a long and interesting history. Its purpose is just as important, the need just as great, if not greater today than it was in September 1975 when church leaders took a $200 loan from the vestry and rented a small space at 222 W. Meeker St.

A small volunteer force soon began to collect donations and consignments from church members and the community, and the thrift shop opened for business that November. The staff worked diligently, the loan was repaid by January and the store turned a $2,400 profit that first year, which was distributed back into the community.

Since then, the thrift store has survived tough economic times, two moves and the fear of closure. It officially celebrated its 40th anniversary last Sept. 12.

New volunteers, regardless if they’re church members or not, are welcome.

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Donations of gently-used and clean items are being accepted 9 a.m. to noon on Mondays and Tuesdays and 1:30 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays, or by appointment by calling 253-854-5165 or 253-852-4450. Just look for the red doors at the church. For more information, call 253-852-4450 or visit www.stjameskent.org.

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