Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Help to needy expands with thrift shop

Shopping with dignity - and more often

By William Croyle
Enquirer Contributor

Lorna Barrett, coordinator of the thrift shop at United Ministries, Erlanger, readies items for sale in the shop. United Ministries serves about 300 families a month, providing food and help with rent and utility payments.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/PATRICK REDDY
ERLANGER - Nancy Whitehead of Covington has been a regular shopper at United Ministries for five years. On Thursday, she left with a candleholder, cake pan and a few vintage kitchen items after making three trips through the store.

"I usually have to go around several times," said Whitehead. "They have some pretty good things here. There's something for everyone."

Whitehead was shopping at United Ministries' new thrift shop, which is open to the public every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The shop replaces the two-day-a-month yard sale the organization held in the past.

"We're keeping stats on it to see how it works out," said Dick Mueller, a board member and volunteer. "We're hoping this will increase the money we bring in for the clients."

The clients are the 200 to 300 low-income families from southern Kenton County and Boone County the non-profit agency helps each month.

United Ministries Thrift Shop

525 Graves Road in Erlanger (in the basement)

Phone: 727-0300

Shop is open from 9 a.m. to noon every Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Donations are accepted from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday

United Ministries - founded in 1982 by a group of Erlanger and Elsmere ministers and staffed today by nearly 70 volunteers - conducts case-management sessions to help families get out of emergency financial situations.

The clients usually have low-paying jobs, don't get enough work hours to meet expenses, or suffer from an illness or injury. United Ministries helps with rent or utility money if there is a threat of eviction or services being turned off. It also has a food pantry.

The thrift shop is the organization's biggest fund-raiser, and all of the items in the store are donated. Household items, including toasters, dishes, pots, pans and blankets range in price from a few cents to a few dollars. Toys, clothes and furniture are for sale. Among items last week were 25-cent puzzles, a computer desk and chair for $28 and wedding dress for $35.

"Our prices are outrageously reasonable," said Mueller.

Larry Brookover of Hebron is a regular customer. He usually buys books and likes the current set-up better than the monthly sale. "There would always be a line of people at the door when it was monthly," said Brookover. "Now you don't see as many people at once, which is good for me."

The store can also provide dignity for low-income families who shop there.

"Most of the families feel real positive and comfortable about going in Thursday through Saturday and shopping for themselves," said board chairwoman Pat Slater. "It helps them feel better about themselves."

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