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Home > Interpreter Magazine > Archives > 2012 Archives > September-October 2012 > Tech-savvy servant creates thrift store with a twist

Tech-savvy servant creates thrift store with a twist

Timothy and Carina Spaeth join their mother, Chris, in showing some of the items sold through the New Beginnings On-line Thrift Shop. Each of the items stored in the trailer is pictured on the store's website.
Timothy and Carina Spaeth join their mother, Chris, in showing some of the items sold through the New Beginnings On-line Thrift Shop. Each of the items stored in the trailer is pictured on the store's website.

Who doesn't like a bargain – especially when you find it online.

Kingswood United Methodist Church in Buffalo Grove, Ill., is offering a new, convenient way to shop for bargains and giving back to the community at the same time. The New Beginnings On-line Thrift Shop officially opened for business in July to sell reasonably priced items – and to offer job training.

About three years ago, while Kingswood member Chris Spaeth was prepping for the annual church rummage sale, she invited a group of adults with disabilities from the neighboring Center for Enriched Living to help with sorting clothes and other tasks.

"Their presence in the church touched so many hearts in those two short hours," said Spaeth. "Not only did our visitors leave with a sense of pride and accomplishment, but Kingswood volunteers were blessed in many ways. One even made the decision to volunteer" with the center. That was the moment Spaeth decided to work toward offering the experience on a daily basis through a thrift store.

After countless monthly meetings, the vision to open a retail store that would offer job-training skills moved to an on-line model. In the intervening three years, Spaeth says, numerous thrift stores had opened in the community and the church was unable to receive enough grant money to get a bricks-and-mortar store started. "It was as if God was telling us...‘No, I don't want you to go in that direction,'" said Spaeth.

Then came the move to storing the items in a 25-foot-by-8-foot metal trailer on the church property – and selling them through the online store. Shoppers begin their search at, where each item in the collection of gently used artwork, children's items, electronics, furniture, sporting goods and more is pictured. When customers find an item in which they are interested, they send an email, and arrangements are made for viewing, payment and pick-up. The first item sold was a kitchen chair.

A creative ministries grant from the Northern Illinois Conference helped launch the ministry.

Spaeth says it's a win-win since the items stay out of a landfill and are given a "new beginning" in the hands of someone who needs them at a reasonable price. One single mother recently bought a futon. She had left her husband in the middle of the night with her three children, and they were sleeping on the floor.

While most of the items are sold online, a recent sidewalk sale drew other customers from the neighborhood and raised $600 in one day. Another sidewalk sale – selling Halloween and other seasonal items – is planned for October during the church's fall festival.

Money raised through New Beginnings will help support the job training.

"We are hoping to provide job training skills in computers, retail and marketing to people with disabilities, people who are at risk of becoming homeless due to unemployment, and people who are often passed up for job opportunities due to lack of experience, such as immigrants," said Spaeth, who adds that the shop will also give back to the church..

"Volunteers from Kingswood will have the opportunity to reach out and share love and kindness, as Jesus taught us, to people in the community who have never come through our doors on a Sunday morning."

Anne Marie Gerhardt is director of communications for the Northern Illinois Annual Conference.

AT A GLANCE: Kingswood United Methodist Church | 401 W. Dundee Rd., Buffalo Grove, IL 60089-3441 | (847) 398-0770 | | | Lead Pastor: Rev. James Preston | Average Attendance: 256 | Northern Illinois Conference

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