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Center Thrift Shop Celebrates 10 Years of Service to the Community

The shop provides for those who are struggling, raises funds for mission projects, and gives congregation members the opportunity to serve the community.

Writer / Lois Tomaszewski
Photographer / Jubilee Edgell

The faithful will say that God has a plan for everything. The Center Thrift Shop in Bremen is an example of that belief.

Founded in 2013, the thrift shop housed in the former Sunday School classrooms at First United Church of Christ celebrates aThe Center Thrift Shop decade of service to the community and to its church. Over the past 10 years, nearly $50,000 has been raised to fund worthy causes and organizations and mission trips, as well as extending the church’s outreach to the greater community.

The beginning of the thrift shop came from an idea from church member Laura Barnes, then a single, stay-at-home mother who still serves on the board. She thought a church-operated thrift shop would benefit both the congregation and the community. But, the fact that her idea hatched into The Center was truly an act of divine intervention.

“It took about a year,” Barnes says. “Once we started with this, with God’s grace, things just happened.”

In addition to Barnes, board members include Elaine Guzak, Carol Somsel, and Deb Kipter. Dwayne Gouch and Janelle Curry were part of the original board.

With the backing of the pastor, a business plan crafted by Elaine Guzak and the determination and faith of the founding board members, The Center opened its doors and has continued to thrive.

The mission as stated in the original business plan has three objectives. First, to provide for people who are struggling. Another objective is to raise funds for mission projects and finally to provide the congregation with the means to serve the community. In other words, serving God by serving others.

Organizations supported by funding donations from The Center include the Boys and Girls Club of Bremen, Bremen Community Cares, Bremen Holy Walk, the mammography unit at Bremen Hospital and Grace Community Food Pantry. Donations have also been made to local families in need and the United Church of Christ missions and projects.

The Center Thrift ShopPrices in the thrift shop are affordable – $1 or $2 for most apparel and $5 for coats and designer label garments. They do not accept donations of household goods or furniture. Clothing, shoes and accessories are accepted.

Donations to sell are taken on Wednesdays, the only day the thrift shop is open. Church members are generous in their donations and time, as members frequently pitch in to carry the donations up three flights of stairs to the shop.

“We are a small congregation,” Barnes says. “Close to 100% of the congregation has been involved in the thrift shop in some way.”

The store is staffed by about a dozen or more volunteers, six of whom volunteer on a regular basis.

“We would welcome others if they were interested,” Carol Somsel says.

“We see customer’s kids grow up from newborn to preschool,” Betsy Yoder says, a volunteer at the store.

Several volunteers are former teachers, like Lisa Harrington.

“When we retired, it gave us a sense of purpose,” Harrington says.

Another volunteer, Becky Stiles, says she appreciates that the mission of the thrift store is more than just charity. “I like that it is more of a hand up than a handout,” she says. “People like to shop here. We have fun and we are family.”

Barnes says she is appreciative of the volunteers who help and continue to make the thrift shop a benefit to the community. Their friendliness and compassion are instrumental in making everyone who comes to The Center feel welcomed, she says.

Pastor Mark Roeda says the thrift shop is an example of a church fulfilling its mission.

“A church is always a mission and it’s always rediscovering what that mission is,” Roeda says. “We are called to ask how we are stewards of this mission.”The Center Thrift Shop

Even the name chosen for the thrift shop is rooted in the faith of those involved in its operation. The mission statement for the church is to bring Christ to the center of our lives as we worship learn and serve him together, Barnes noted, adding that the church is on Center Street.

The Center Thrift Shop is accessed through a door on the south side of the church located at 323 S. Center Street. It is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays, unless a major holiday falls on that day. You can also follow The Center for updates on hours and specials on their Facebook page.

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