Archdiocese Local Ministries

TurnStyles times two

Catholic Charities thrift store expands into Olathe

by Jill Ragar Esfeld
Special to The Leaven

Olathe — Though the grand opening of the second TurnStyles here won’t be until May 14, this newest Catholic Charities thrift store has been up and running smoothly since mid-February.

And shoppers are already finding incredible bargains.

Mary Ann Hilgers who teaches religion at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, was so pleased with her find that she had to share it with her students. “

I had a new outfit I wore for teacher conferences,” she said. “I told my students — brand-new, Banana Republic, with the tags still on it!”

Doug Clopton, manager of TurnStyles in-kind donations and retail operations, isn’t surprised at Hilgers’ good fortune.

“We’ve got 3500 square feet [at the new store],” he said, “all used for retail floor or for the receiving goods.

“We have clothes, accessories, furniture, appliances, household goods, books and toys. And what we tell our shoppers is many of the things we get are donated new.”

Tucked in the far corner of a strip mall on the northwest corner of Mur-Len and 151st Street, the new TurnStyles mimics its cousin in Overland Park with its neat, clean appearance and friendly atmosphere.

Open to everyone

Hilgers, who is a volunteer and frequent shopper at both stores, loves finding new items at TurnStyles, but is just as happy buying secondhand.

“It’s the greenest possible shopping you can do,” she said. “Instead of throwing things in landfills or throwing stuff out, you reduce, reuse and recycle — every time you purchase something there.”

Hilgers ran a design business for 18 years before she began teaching. She has an eye for style and has decorated her own home, as well as her five children’s homes and apartments, with bargains from TurnStyles.

“You can get everything you need there from furniture to clothes to housewares,” she said.

“I always try to educate and tell my students — and even my own children — that we want everybody to shop at TurnStyles,” she added. “We have enough stuff for everybody.”

Clopton agrees.

“We have low-income people who shop at these stores,” he said. “But we also have high-income people who shop at the store because they understand and recognize that the money they’re spending is staying right here in our community and helping people less fortunate than us.

“When they buy from us, they end up feeding a family of four or paying a utility bill or helping with counseling.”

TurnStyles is able to turn over so much of its profits to Catholic Charities because the stores are staffed by volunteers.

Community service When Prince of Peace, Olathe, parishioners discovered the new store was opening in their neighborhood, they were eager to be the first volunteers on staff.

Religious education directors Polly Holmes and Phyllis Mills not only joined the volunteer effort, but encouraged their students to do the same.

“They were incredibly supportive when we told them we were going to be putting [a TurnStyles] just around the block,” said Clopton.

“I just gave the kids the option and talked to them about it, and the kids took it from there,” said Holmes, who is in charge of junior high students.

“For junior high kids who don’t drive yet, this has been a great way for them to get their confirmation service hours right here in Olathe,” she added.

“It was really convenient for me,” said Blake Heying, an 8th-grader at Chisholm Trail Middle School who will be confirmed at Prince of Peace this year.

“It was a fun and kind of easy way to get a lot of service hours done,” he explained. “We sort clothes, work at the cash register and do a lot of the things you do in regular stores.”

In between volunteering, Heying admitted, even the students do a little shopping.

“I know of a few kids that go there and shop for things,” he said. “They have plenty of toys and plenty of kids’ clothes and shoes.”

Mills, who works with senior high students, sees TurnStyles as an ideal service opportunity for teenagers.

“They feel like they’ve really helped someone, because they know all the money goes right back into Catholic Charities,” she said.

At St. Thomas Aquinas, Hilgers has her freshmen religion students spend a day visiting various programs sponsored by Catholic Charities, including TurnStyles.

“And I tell them, all the money that’s made here goes back to support St. Ben’s that you’ve been to, Shalom House — whatever the program.”

Jump start on job skills

In addition to serving their community, student volunteers gain valuable retail experience that can help them when they enter the job market.

“I learned some skills in how to run a store that will help me later if I ever want to do anything like that,” said Heying. “They can work in all sections,” said Holmes.

“They work the cash register, and they help keep things clean, sorting and folding in the back.

“And then they also just get the experience of working with the public and helping them.”

Adult volunteers are also actively involved in TurnStyles. Though they may not need the retail experience, they treasure the friendships to be found there.

“I think it’s such a unique experience because you become a family,” said Hilgers. “I go in on Saturdays, in the evenings when they need me, and I also volunteer during the summer.

“And I know all the Saturday ladies. I have a brunch at my house four times a year for the Saturday ladies. We keep track of each other.”

Clopton values his volunteers as much as they value their experience.

“My goal is to have TurnStyles be volunteer run,” he said. “In the last seven years since we started the last store, I’ve learned: If you want it done right and you want it done well, then let volunteers do it and stay out of their way.”

Indeed, volunteers have done a tremendous job getting the new store ready for its grand opening. And they’re eager for more donations as business picks up.

“There are great bargains there,” said Holmes. “And also now we have a place up here on the south side to drop donations off.”

Shopping with purpose

Like the original TurnStyles, TurnStyles Olathe will generate revenue that supports more than 20 Catholic Charities’ programs.

And being part of that process by shopping, volunteering or donating is simply a good way to live out Gospel values.

As a religion teacher, that’s one of the lessons Hilgers focuses on with her students.

“You know we go through a whole process of awareness, analysis and action,” she explained. “It’s one thing to be aware; it’s another thing to analyze what we can do. But the action part of it is really important. So this is truly living the Gospel values that we’re all called to do.”

As he gets ready to make his confirmation, Heying has benefited from his experience volunteering and shopping at TurnStyles Olathe. And he encourages others to do the same.

“I think it’s just helping people who don’t have as much as other people,” he said. “We help provide things for less money and give them things that they might need.”

“Jesus was a big giver to other people,” he added. “So I’d say TurnStyles is a good place, and you should go there.”

Donations welcome

TurnStyles accepts donations of gently used furniture, clothing, small household appliances, and much more. Drop-off times at both TurnStyles locations are:

• Fridays: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• Saturdays: 10 a.m. to noon

Donation pickup service

A $50 donation is required to compensate the costs incurred for pickup, but is offset with a $20 TurnStyles gift certificate which can be used either by the donor or dropped in the offering plate at church.

• Please make checks payable to: Catholic Charities.

• To schedule a pickup, call (913) 648-6795.

Volunteers needed

Because of TurnStyles tremendous growth, manager Doug Clopton would like to issue a plea for more volunteers. They are needed to sort donations and staff the store.

“It’s one of the greatest places in the city to volunteer,” Clopton said, “because it’s clean, it’s fun, it’s a safe environment, and it helps everybody in the community.”

• To volunteer, call Mary Kay Drees at (913) 433-2080.

• Or sign up to volunteer online at:

TurnStyles Olathe

1703 Mur-Len, Olathe (Northwest corner of 151st & Mur-Len ) Store Hours: Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call (913) 909-2485 or visit the Web site at:

About the author

Jill Esfeld

Jill Ragar Esfeld received a degree in Writing from Missouri State University and started her profession as a magazine feature writer, but quickly transitioned to technical/instructional writing where she had a successful career spanning more than 20 years. She returned to feature writing when she began freelancing for The Leaven in 2004. Her articles have won several awards from the Catholic Press Association. Jill grew up in Christ the King parish in Kansas City, Missouri; and has been a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, Kansas, for 35 years.

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