MCC photo/Sara Dick

Debbie Claassen, volunteers to put out "new" spring merchandise at the Newton Et Cetera Shop in Newton, KS. 

MCC thrift shops run on four things: volunteers, donations, commitment from board and staff and lots of hospitality for everyone who enters the shop! From volunteers to donors to staff, a dedication to creating community and working to support MCC is essential. When all of these elements come together it creates a beautiful tapestry. COVID-19 undoubtedly made every function of a volunteer driven retail shop more complicated, yet shops have found ways to safely re-open and revive that sense of community. 

MCC Central States thrift coordinator Sarah Fleming shares, "I feel fortunate to work with a group of MCC Thrift Managers and shop board members who are dedicated to serving their community and generating income for MCC. COVID-19 required all aspects of shop operations to be evaluated, including how and what to communicate with the community while being temporarily closed, how to safely process donated items, how to arrange for physical distancing in the processing area and retail floor, and implementation of policies around hand sanitizer use and masks."

Paul Janzen, member of the shop's board of directors and regular shop volunteer at the Care & Share Thrift Shop in Mountain Lake, MN. MCC photo/Care & Share Thrift Shop

"Perhaps the biggest challenge has been working differently to accommodate reduced volunteer availability. Many thrift volunteers are older constituents who are high risk for COVID. COVID caused some volunteers to suspend or retire from their volunteer commitments," says Fleming.

Mary Cate Pugh at the Crowded Closet in Iowa City, IA works with clothing donations. MCC photo/Crowded Closet

Fleming continues, "At the same time, shops experienced a significant increase in donated items as the pandemic provided time for people to stay home and reflect on their belongings. It has been a huge challenge to address the increased workload – added COVID safety protocols and influx of clothing and household donations, while also experiencing a decrease in volunteer hours. Despite all this, shop management and staff have really worked hard to maintain a sense of community with volunteers and customers. MCC values this commitment and sincerely thanks them!"

Volunteering can be done in many ways. Ben and Tina Schrag volunteered a couple hours with their boys, Noah and Levi, over spring break to put together donated Christmas trees at the Et Cetera Shop in Newton, Kansas. MCC photo/Tina Schrag

Fleming expressed gratitude for volunteers, "MCC is also extremely thankful for every MCC Thrift Volunteer. The skills, time and dedication of volunteers is illustrated each time a shop sends a financial gift to MCC. It takes many hands to make a thrift shop work – hands that clean and price items, display merchandise on the sales floor, greet customers to complete sales, and meet as board members to carry out governance and legal duties. Each volunteer is special and MCC appreciates these volunteers every single day!"

Take action!

If you are ready to join a friendly community and support MCC at the same time, consider volunteering at a local MCC thrift shop! Each shop is urgently seeking more volunteers. There are volunteer opportunities for all ages and abilities. Thrift managers would love to work with you to find a safe and meaningful way for you to engage in an MCC thrift shop. Find a shop near you!