Timmy’s Place was started in 2001 to provide alternative revenue for Timothy Christian School in Williamsburg, using about $1,500 in seed money from donors.
Richard Zandbergen, who continues to be involved as treasurer on the store’s board of directors, says the store’s set-up costs were fairly low, making it an attractive option.
The decision was quickly confirmed as a good one as donations of items and offers to volunteer flowed in.
“It has been a real blessing right from the start,” Zandbergen says, noting the initial intent was to set up boxes around the community to collect items but that never happened as “the stuff started coming in so quickly.”
The store committee has also continued to be surprised by the interest in volunteering from the broader community, including many who have no association with Christian education.
“They just love coming into the store and the fellowship there,” says Zandbergen.
Many also enjoy having first dibs at purchasing the items they sort and put out for sale, he adds with a chuckle, noting it’s intriguing to see a large portion of the store’s clientele are middle-class.
About six years ago the store incorporated as Friends of Timothy Christian School, followed by the purchase of a larger building. Sales doubled as a result, Zandbergen says.
To date, about $318,000 has been donated to the school. The store has capped its contributions at an annual $40,000 in order to help pay for the new building it will open in 2014, as well as other capital costs.
Zandbergen notes an additional benefit to having the store as a revenue stream is the convenience of it, given its dependence on volunteers.
“We used to have a catering service at our school, which did fairly well, but it was always Saturday nights, when people wanted to have family time,” he says.
Now people volunteer about a day a month — the store relies on a rotation of about 60 volunteers — and it’s all in regular work-hours.
“We’re filling a need for the school,” Zandbergen says. “But we’re also filling a real community need, because in our community there was really no alternative for (purchasing second-hand items).”