It was a holiday Monday but Tineke Bouma thought she’d open the thrift store she manages anyway. She was glad she did when she found herself praying with a distraught customer who happened to come in, full of anger about something that had just happened but saying the anger had surprisingly gone away as they prayed.
For Bouma, such an opportunity is a blessing — and one she hadn’t necessarily expected when she decided to start the thrift store this past May to provide financial support to a local independent school, Belleville Christian School.
“(The store is) just as much about being a light in our community,” she says. “I know it’s important for us to make money but that’s not our first goal.”
Bouma says she’s had many different opportunities to listen to people, including customers and people who volunteer at the store, and pray with them. She calls it all a blessing.
“I’ve had tears in my eyes, hearing some of the stories of how the Lord has worked in people’s lives,” she says. The store’s logo — a lantern image borrowed from the Alliston’s Attic thrift store — signifies this aspect of its role in the community, which is being a light through offering a listening ear and an encouraging word — and some low-cost items to boot.
The store is a “heart” project of Bouma’s, who has been a long-time Christian education supporter and raised funds in different ways over the years.
She’s held yard sales many summers where the thought would come to her, “If only I didn’t have to keep hauling all this stuff in and out every day.”
“My heart has always been that every family that wants Christian education is able to send their children,” says Bouma, who’s showing her deep commitment to making this desire a reality with her dedication of time.
“For me personally it’s been almost six days a week that I’m here; my house is falling apart, but my husband has been extremely supportive,” Bouma says with a chuckle, noting recent new arrangements allow for her to take a day off a week, as well as the occasional Saturday.
For her, though, it’s all worth it and she’s even now dreaming of a larger building which would allow for the sale of more items and a café-like space where people could gather over coffee and “community could happen.”
Opened in May 2012, Belleville’s Thrift Store has netted about $20,000. Part of this success can be attributed to the contributions of different individuals and organizations, including donated items to sell, signage, the building where the store is located — a Christian education supporter provides this rent-free — and a shipping container in which to sort the goods.
All proceeds are donated to Belleville Christian School for tuition assistance. This year, five families could either start attending the school or continue doing so due to the funds.
A surprising discovery has been how the addition of advertising on Kijiji has helped sales, says Bouma. She notes her computer-savvy adult daughter has been posting various items on the on-line, free, advertising site, bringing people to the store who probably wouldn’t otherwise come.
Ed Petrusma is on Belleville Christian School administrative team. He notes Belleville’s Thrift Store is proving a reliable revenue stream as there seems to be a market for it in the area.
“It seems to me that the thrift store is one place where you can volunteer your time and there can be some very significant funds raised based on the amount of hours put in,” he adds, noting he sees great potential for the store’s growth down the road as well.
Bouma says she’d love to see a thrift store supporting Christian education in every community — all with the lantern symbol signifying that they are intended to be a light offering community, encouragement and connection to God.
For more on the thrift store, visit its Facebook page.