Almost 70 years ago several members of the Women’s Guild at St. Peter’s, Livingston decided they needed a way to raise monies to support their outreach funding, and opened a Thrift Shop that provided donated clothing at a reasonable price to the community.
As the membership of the parish decreased and demographics changed, the Women’s Guild ceased to exist. The Thrift Shop, however, continued to grow, expanding into two large rooms and entrance hall in the school wing. During this time, all the profits went to the church’s general fund to subsidize the church’s income.
With the anticipated closing of the church at the end of 2021, The Shop’s executive board and church vestry faced the difficult task of deciding The Shop’s future. Its closing would be another emotional heartbreak not only to the parish but also to the volunteers and the surrounding community who had come to rely on its merchandise and fellowship. After much discussion and assistance from the diocese, it was decided to seek another parish with which to partner rather than become an independent non-profit organization. This would enable the shop to continue its vision of being a ministry of and fellowship with an Episcopal Church.
During the summer of 2021 discussions began with the Church of the Holy Spirit in Verona. We found our visions complimented each other and their faith community was ready to welcome us. In the fall of 2021, we officially became a ministry of Church of the Holy Spirit, named a new Executive Board, and renamed the shop “Heavenly Finds Thrift Shop.” One of the Executive Boards’ immediate decisions was to use The Shop’s profits to fund outreach programs, returning to the original ministry for The Shop that began in the 1950’s.
The Executive Board of Heavenly Finds Thrift Shop met 3 times in 2022 to distribute over $100,000 to various programs. Almost $45,000 has been given to four food pantries (CHOW in Livingston, Holy Spirit Verona Food Pantry, Christine’s Kitchen at Holy Trinity of West Orange, and St. Peter’s Haven in Clifton). Over $15,000 in funding was provided to diocesan programs – the Alleluia Fund, Apostles’ House, Cross Roads Camp and Conference Center, North Porch, and the Prison ministry. The Shop also supported the Community of St. John Baptist’s Capital Campaign with a donation of $5000.
Heavenly Finds was a top sponsor of the American Federation for Suicide Prevention Out of the Darkness Walk in Verona Park and proudly gave to the National Federation of the Blind in thanksgiving for the assistance they have provided one of the Holy Spirit members. Locally we have and will support the Livingston and Verona High Schools, providing $6000 in scholarships for six students who have showed outstanding volunteerism. We have funded various other programs supporting children, teenagers, young adults and families.
The Shop also provides nonmonetary donations. We give merchandise that has not sold or not part of our accepted items to the United Breast Cancer Foundation. UBCF picks up 20 to 30 bags/boxes of gently used merchandise weekly. R.E.A.D. Foundation has provided us with a clothing bin in which we can place unacceptable clothing and linens. They then pick up the contents of the bin to recycle. We listen to the community’s needs and donate as we are able.
Our customers have become part of our family. Many are regulars and we have seen their children grow, become customers themselves and bring their children. Twenty-five volunteers bless us with their dedication and expertise. The amount and quality of the donations we receive is extraordinary.
Thank you to our founding mothers for their faithfulness, wisdom, foresight, dedication, and talents to establish The Shop as we continue to grow this vital ministry.
Cynthia Brady is head volunteer at Heavenly Finds Thrift Shop and a parishioner at Holy Spirit, Verona.