By Caleb Hennington
Digital Content Editor
For more than 70 years, the Clinton United Methodist Church’s Thrift Shop has been serving the mountain community of Clinton, Arkansas with low-cost goods and generous grants that are given back to their neighbors in need.
The thrift shop, which was started and is currently maintained by the church’s United Methodist Women chapter, has served multiple generations of families in Clinton.
“The shop started out in a log cabin and then moved closer to town in an old cheese factory. Then, in 1973, they bought their own building in downtown Clinton,” said Ida Holt, the Thrift Shop manager and member of Clinton UMC. “In 2005, we moved to our current location, which is at 570 Griggs St.”
Holt’s husband, Dell, is an Army veteran, and she said after moving to Clinton in the early 2000s, she was asked to come help with the Clinton Thrift Shop because of her experience running similar stores for the UMW at various Army bases throughout her life.
“They were looking at moving into a new building because they had run out of room at their old one,” Holt said. “We actually had a church member donate the land where the building was constructed. And we went from 800 square feet to 3,200 square feet in the new building.”
Everything that is sold at the Methodist Thrift Shop is donated by people from around the town. Donors drop off their items at the shop during the week and the team of more than 20 volunteers at the Thrift Shop sort through the donations on Mondays.
The shop is only open on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the rest of the time is spent sorting through donations and deciding whether an item can be sold in the shop. None of the volunteers, including Holt, are paid workers; everything they do is because of a desire to help out their community.
Most adult clothing items sell for $2. Children’s clothing, which is the biggest seller, sells for less than $2 apiece. Larger items, like furniture or appliances, are priced fairly. Heavier clothes, like jackets or coats, are sold for a slightly higher price than other clothing items.
At the end of the year, anything not sold at the Thrift Shop is donated to Soul Food Cafe Mission, a shelter and food bank in Conway, Arkansas, and some items are recycled. Nothing donated is wasted.
Holt said that all of the money made at the shop is given back to the community in the form of grants or relief kits, and despite selling their goods for an extremely low cost, the Thrift Shop has made enough money throughout the years to give back significant grants to the Clinton community.
“One of our favorite sayings is ‘We make treasure out of trash,” Holt said.
If you look at the money that they’ve been able to give back, that saying rings especially true for the people of Clinton.
In the first 10 years that Holt was managing the shop, they were able to put about $1 million in grant money back into the community.
The Rev. George Odell, pastor at Clinton UMC, said one of the latest grants was $10,000 given to the Clinton High School band to help pay for new musical instruments.
“If you know music, then you know that equipment is not inexpensive. The grant provided by the Thrift Shop really helped out the band program to buy that much-needed equipment,” Odell said.
They have also assisted other organizations around town, such as the Van Buren County Sheriff’s office. The Thrift Shop was able to buy and train a drug-detection dog for the Sheriff’s office as well as pay for the officer’s training.
Other beneficiaries over the years have included the local hospital, Ozark Health Specialty Clinic, for new medical equipment and furnishings for a new trauma room; local food pantries and food banks; a nursing home; and the Van Buren County Public Library, where they were able to assist the library with increasing the literacy rates in the county.
Holt estimates that the Thrift Shop has been able to give to more than 40 different organizations over the years, and their average grant-giving is between $30,000 – $40,000 per year.
“Our main goal is mission work within Van Buren County. We’re a very poor county and the need is always there. We’ve gone through so many natural disasters in the last 15 years, from tornadoes to flooding, and we want the shop to be open for anyone that needs help during rough times.”
That’s also why the Thrift Shop has worked over the years to provide burnout kits to families who’ve lost everything in a house fire.
Burnout kits are kits that have essential items in them and are given to families who have a verified home loss due to a fire.
“The kits will have everything from dishes and silverware to clothing and bedsheets in them. We always try to keep those available at all times in the back room of the Thrift Shop,” Odell said.
Holt said that the shop provides kits, as well as gift certificates to the shop, to families who have lost their clothing and other items due to a disaster.
“The people who have lost everything are the ones that truly need our help.”
In addition to clothing and other items, the Thrift Shop has worked closely with some of the area food banks to provide meals for hungry families in the area.
Odell said that each year around Thanksgiving, the Thrift Shop donates cash to help the local food banks buy meals. The Food Bank in Choctaw, the largest food bank in the county, uses the money donated by the Thrift Shop to buy chicken breasts which are then distributed to anyone who is needing a hot, fresh meal for the holidays.
According to Odell, the Thrift Shop has made a major impact on Clinton and Van Buren County for the almost half-century that it’s been open.
“This has been a vital ministry for all of Van Buren County,” Odell said. “It’s amazing what they’ve done.”
The Thrift Shop is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you’d like to donate, please bring your gently used items to the Thrift Shop at 570 Griggs St., Clinton, AR anytime during the week.