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Thrift shops help curb tuition costs

Written on July 28th, 2008

Michigan second-hand stores support local Christian schools

New Life Thrift Store is one of four thrift shops in Michigan that has been launched specifically to help curb tuition costs for area Christian schools.

Given the poor economy and growing interest in recycling and reusing, the stores, which have all opened within the past several years, are booming.

Because of its success New Life Thrift will relocate to a larger space later this year.

Beth Heyboer, development director for New Life Thrift, says the venture has been “100 per cent” worth it.

Proceeds from the shop are gifted to a local Christian high school and its four feeder schools. The gift amounts correspond to the number of students at each school. Each local school board determines how the donated funds will be used. In most cases they are directed towards defraying tuition costs for families.

Heyboer was instrumental in the start-up of the New Life Thrift Shop. A South Suburban Christian School Foundation had been established for the purpose of developing collaborative fundraising efforts among the five schools. She was hired by the foundation to investigate fundraising options and learned about several Christian schools that were running thrift shops to offset costs.

After visiting several around the country she returned, “feeling that this is what the Lord wanted us to do.”

Donations and a debt paid off in the first year of operation allowed for the opening of the shop in a refurbished building.

Volunteers and a paid skeleton management staff operate New Life Thrift. About 900 volunteer hours are required a month.

Lori VanOss, manager, points out that the volunteers are key to the fundraising success of the store.

“That’s how you raise your money, if you have volunteers,” she says, noting that grandparents and church-members have proven to be the most supportive in terms of volunteer hours.

Parents of students at each of the five supported schools are also asked to donate at least four hours a year, per child.

New Life Thrift is intended to replace the need for most other sorts of fundraisers at the schools.

Heyboer adds that an unexpected blessing of the store has been that it’s making a difference in the local and broader community. Items that can’t be used by the store have been donated to local missions and ministries as well as sent to other countries to help other people in need.

“The ministry that comes out of here has been incredible,” she says. “For us as Christians to really see it’s not just all about us, that this is going far beyond what we could have ever imagined, that’s a really big blessing that we’re excited about.”