Resale shop gives back $174,450 to local organizations

Article originally published in the Bureau County Republican, January 10, 2020
By Goldie Rapp

PRINCETON — Last year was The Princeton Closet’s most profitable year in 51 years.

And with such success, Church Women United, operators of the resale shop, were able to give back to the community more than they’ve ever been able to in the past.

On Thursday, $174,450 was given away to 33 local non-profit organizations.

Shirley Johnson, president of Church Women United, claimed it was a blessing.

“It just makes me want to weep,” Johnson said.

“It’s the generosity of the community. It’s the generosity of our volunteers. It’s the generosity of the people who walk through the front door to shop,” she said.

During a brief presentation before annual donations were handed out to representatives of each receiving organization, Johnson said on this year’s application she asked applicants to write down how many people these funds touch. After tallying those numbers, she came up with 82,374 people, which is eight times more than she had guessed.

“It’s crazy good,” she said.

The volunteers of The Princeton Closet and members of Church Women United stand by the motto, “What is best for The Closet,” which might be just one of the secrets to success at the resale shop.

Or it could be that The Closet is run on a tight ship. Johnson said there are only four part-time paid employees and the rest are volunteers. They also do whatever they can to keep operation expenses as low as possible.

Steve Esme, manager at The Closet, held up two paper cutouts of children shoe prints to illustrate how The Closet got started 50 years ago. It all began when a teacher approached a couple of women with shoe cutouts and asked if they could find shoes that size to fit kids in her classroom who had nothing.

“This is what we are today after 50 years, because of the community support of all the clothing that comes in here, because of the community support of all the people who buy what we have out here,” he said.

“We have 80 volunteers who come here everyday to help make it look great, to inspect everything. We could not do it without the volunteers.”

Despite the high number of volunteers, The Closet could always use more. Esme said there are more than 100 bags of donated clothing and 100 boxes of donated housewares that haven’t even been sorted and put out yet.

“We cannot keep up with what comes in the back door and putting it out on the floor. We love having that challenge, and you could help us a lot,” he said.

NCRBC Board Members Mark Hull and Derek Fetzer were on hand to receive a check from Terry Hoelle and Shirley Johnson of The Closet for the Words Matter project.
Recipients of donations from The Closet (front row, from left) are Kim Frey, Princeton Chamber of Commerce; Dawn Conerton, Community Partners Against Substance Abuse; Joanne Baker, Wyanet Food Pantry; Denise Ihrig, Bureau County Senior Center; Vanessa Hoffeditz, Bureau County Food Pantry; Danielle Gapinski, University of Extension, Bureau County 4-H; and (back row, from left) Trisha Schafer, Freedom House; Melanie Whitmer, Community Partners Against Substance Abuse and Freedom House; Christine Davis, Princeton Chamber of Commerce; Kevin Sangston, Community Partners Against Substance Abuse; Tim Oloffson, Another Child Foundation; Janice Wamhoff, Community Partners Against Substance Abuse and Second Story Teen Center; Mark Frank, Princeton Buddy Bags; Sarah Scruggs, Arukah Institute of Healing; Dana Van Autreve, Second Story Teen Center; Brad Oeder, Flags of Freedom; Dixie Nichols, Wyanet Food Pantry; Jason Marquis, Fellowship of Christian Athletes; Derek Fetzer, North Central Regional Betterment Coalition; Sue Spratt, Perry Memorial Hospital Foundation; Mark Hull, North Central Regional Betterment Coalition; Joy Kauffman, Farm Strew International; Cherry Olin, Farm Stew International and Mike Smith, Bureau County Historical Society.