by Carolyn Kaberline
OVERLAND PARK — Catholic Charities here recently decided that if the donations wouldn’t come to them, they’d go to the donations! The result has been a new program that placed donation bins at several Johnson County parishes. With the help of these bins, TurnStyles — operated by Catholic Charities — has seen an increase in both the number of donations and the quality.
“We came up with the idea as part of a brainstorming session to address why many of our parishioners were taking their donations to other thrift stores,” said Ken Williams, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas.
“One of the more prevalent reasons given was convenience,” he said. “The clothing bin idea is primarily an attempt to make it as convenient as possible for parishioners to donate their clothing and household goods to Catholic Charities.”
“After deciding to purchase the first four bins, Ryan Forshee, our facilities manager, found them on eBay at a great price,” said Ernie Boehner, director of Catholic Action.
Once the bins arrived, they were painted and branded for use by Catholic Charities.
McLeod noted that Forshee was also able to find a body shop that would paint the bins at a “great rate.”
“I then worked with our marketing department to tweak our messaging for the bins,” he added, “and they made the arrangement with our signage company to make the designs come to fruition.”
The first bin was placed at the Church of the Ascension in Overland Park in early January, followed by the remaining three at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Leawood, Holy Trinity in Lenexa and Prince of Peace in Olathe. Three more have since been purchased and placed at St. Ann Church in Prairie Village and St. Agnes Church in Roeland Park. Curé of Ars Parish in Leawood will get one in June.
McLeod noted that the location of the bins at the parishes varies.
“We have to be careful where they are placed,” he said, adding that the placement has to work for each parish, with most located in the parking lots. “Although placement is huge, even more important is the marketing and communication with the parishes that the bins are available. Parish buy-in is huge for us, and we need to make sure that . . . parishioners know [the bins] are available.”
So far, everything seems to have worked well.
“Reaction has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Chris Arth, parish administrator at St. Michael. “Several parishioners have commented about how convenient it is to use the bins over driving to either TurnStyles location. We are blessed as a community to have both TurnStyles locations relatively close to us, but it is still probably a 45-minute round trip.”
“[But] to be able to drop off a bag of clothing or shoes on the way to church or school takes no time at all,” Arth continued. “The bins have been overflowing on several occasions, which indicates to me they are certainly getting used. And Catholic Charities has been very responsive in getting right out to empty them if they are full.”
Stan Nill, parish life director at Holy Trinity, agreed.
“It seems our parishioners have responded in a positive way,” he said. “We are beginning to see such bins all over town from various agencies, so for those who support Catholic Charities and TurnStyles, we are happy that we are offered this quick and easy opportunity to donate as well.”
While the bins are currently emptied by Catholic Charities staff members twice a week, Boehner said the goal is to recruit volunteers from each parish that would be willing to collect the donations and drop them off at TurnStyles. He added that the most common items donated to date have been women’s clothes, especially blouses.
“While we certainly need and welcome all donated items, we have a great need for children’s clothing,” he said.
Based on his experience in the thrift store industry, McLeod said, “If you have great clothing and a great price, you will be successful in the industry. With clothing being the draw, then you have the opportunity to draw guests in to shop for other items as well. With this program in place, we have been able to increase our clothing donations for both our locations, and we have seen a significant increase in the quality of the clothing donations as well.”
“It’s important to note that 100 percent of the proceeds from TurnStyles are used to serve the poor,” said Williams, “so increasing the quantity and quality of donations is critical to our ability to serve more of those in need.”
“This has been a collaborative effort between many parts of the organization,” said McLeod, “and it has been a blessing to see us all come together for the betterment of TurnStyles, which, in turn, strengthens our organization’s ability to live our mission to animate the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”