St. Francis Thrift Shop celebrates 10th thanks to volunteers

Barb Marcinkowski checks a display at the shop, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. (Miscellany/Gerald Weaver)

Barb Marcinkowski checks a display at the shop, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. (Miscellany/Gerald Weaver)HILTON HEAD—After 10 years in business, St. Francis Thrift Shop is doing better than ever, despite a wave of economic depression that has sunk other small businesses.

Hal Wieland, manager, said their success is due to God’s guidance and a few other factors, such as where they are and who they serve.

“As they like to say, it’s all about location, location, location,” he said.

The thrift shop, which is an outreach of St. Francis Church, started in one small room in the parish center. It grew quickly, moving briefly to a small building before settling into a permanent spot on Southwood Park Drive.

Wieland said they are on the edge of a low-income area and are able to serve the people who live there, along with tourists, wealthy clientele, and everyone in between.

The thrift shop’s mission is to help others in the community. One way they do this is by providing free clothing to the needy and donating surplus items to missions that serve the homeless.

Customers say one of the appealing aspects of the store is that a portion of what they spend will go to a favorite charity.

The list of organizations that St. Francis supports is long. Wieland said he believes it is more effective to help many charities than to focus on one.

Out of their gross income, the nonprofit gives $120,000 each year to St. Francis School for tuition abatement. The rest is distributed to programs such as People with Exceptional Problems, the Pregnancy Center and Clinic of the Low Country, Bluffton Self Help, Meals on Wheels, literacy efforts and more.

Marie Mahoney, who has volunteered at the store since day one, said she especially enjoys helping PEP, which provides activities for mentally challenged adults.

She said God is the boss and the reason they are all there, but she praised Wieland for being a wonderful manager and said he will be missed terribly when he leaves.

At 72, Wieland said he could stay there another 10 years, but felt it was time to do other things. He will retire at the end of the year and said he will truly miss the people he works with.

“I have to say the volunteers are the one thing I’ve enjoyed more than anything else here,” he said. “I love each and every one of them.”

The shop has about 20 volunteers who keep things running in the store and behind the scenes. They coordinate with the church and school, and make sure all of their items are top quality.

St. Francis sells donated clothing, shoes, furniture, household goods, electronics, books and jewelry, said Eleanor Bell. She noted that clothing is their top-seller, with name-brand items going for under $10.

Bell is one of the parishioners who helped get the shop off the ground. She said she couldn’t do it while working full time, but when she retired she felt called to return. Partly, it’s because she loves everyone who works there, and enjoys the clients, she said, but mostly it’s the stewardship.

“I just absolutely love being there because you feel like you’re really helping people. You’re making a difference in their lives, and that’s such a wonderful feeling,” Bell said.