by Jessica Langdon
ATCHISON — Lori Newton has discovered a treasure trove in downtown Atchison.
The mother of three and parishioner of St. Benedict Parish stops in the Sacred Heart Variety Store and More at least once a week to check out the new inventory.
“All three of my children attend the Catholic schools here in Atchison,” she said. “I have found pretty much all of their uniforms at the thrift store.”
She can only begin to calculate how much that has saved her over buying everything new.
She has also found scrubs in good condition that she can wear to work at the hospital.
And when there’s not a lot of extra money in the family budget, those savings are priceless — and give the family room for the occasional treat like pizza or ice cream together.
Plus, Newton knows that each purchase helps St. Benedict School and Maur Hill-Mount Academy, because proceeds from the store benefit the schools.
Business has been booming so much since the store opened in its larger location in March 2013, in fact, that during the most recent fiscal year, it gave roughly $94,000 back to the schools.
It’s the most rewarding work Theresa McDermed, a parishioner of St. Benedict Parish and manager of the store, can imagine.
The store serves the Atchison area, but donations come from near and far — and so do shoppers.
The store helps when needs arise at Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, the Salvation Army, and Doves Inc — which serves people who are victims of domestic violence — and tries to assist anyone it can.
Sometimes, the kids really tug at the heartstrings, like the little girl who befriended McDermed while her mom was shopping.
The child told her about sleeping on the floor because she didn’t have a bed. “I can’t afford to buy one right now,” the girl’s mother told McDermed when she inquired.
But she did know someone who could haul one home.
“We’ve got a bed over there I think she should sleep in,” McDermed told her. “She went home with a bed. She actually even went home with sheets and a blanket, too.”
Another time, a woman pulled a cross necklace from her pocket.
“If I give you this, can I go pick out a wedding gift for a friend of mine?” she asked.
McDermed asked if the necklace meant something to her.
“I put it back in her hand,” said McDermed. She sent the woman to search the store for a wedding gift.
“We’ve had some people tell us they don’t know what they would do without us,” said Tresa Buessing, a volunteer at the store.
She shared the store’s success in a report she gave at the parish.
“Number one, we want to serve the poor,” said Father Gabriel Landis, OSB, pastor of St. Benedict Parish, which formed in 2013 to consolidate the four Atchison-area parishes.
It also benefits the schools in a big way.
That part makes Newton feel good about spending time and money there, and the kids have even been able to work in the store for service hours.
Benedictine College students often shop there to decorate their dorms or add to their wardrobes at prices that won’t break a college student.
From clothes to kitchenware to Halloween costumes, the store has something for everyone.
“Because it’s a Catholic thrift store, I have found some really beautiful crucifixes or vintage artwork,” said Newton.
New donations come in daily.
The few staff members and many volunteers who put in hours of work each week keep the store looking organized and nice.
And people share their talents to make sure the merchandise goes home in good shape.
If a table comes in with a loose leg, a few volunteers know just what to do.
One man tests all the donated televisions and other electronics.
“Some of the volunteers even take some of these items home with them so they can fix them so we can sell them,” said McDermed.
They all take pride in this store that started back in the mid-1990s with the idea of a parishioner named Donna Wilming, who started a small thrift shop in two rooms.
Soon, it was time to upgrade to a larger location. Again a few years later, the store moved to yet another larger location.
Finally, it made the move in March 2013 to its current location downtown, where it is thriving, thanks largely to the donations of great items from people from near and far.
“[Wilming] was a genius to start this. She had no idea what this was going to turn out to be,” said McDermed.
“And now look at us,” she added. “It’s incredible.”
Donate, volunteer, shop
Sacred Heart Variety Store and More is located at 411 Commercial Street in atchison.
Keep up with the latest at the store by liking its Facebook page. Go to www.facebook.com and search for “Sacred Heart Variety Store.”
Donations may be dropped off from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.
Or shop from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.
For more information, call the store at (913) 367-1466.