Many are looking for a good deal these days and, regardless of economic conditions, charities can never raise too much money.
Elizabeth Maring acknowledged both truths when she established Community Threads, a nonprofit resale shop that opened Sept. 1 at 70 W. Dundee Rd., Buffalo Grove.
The stor depends entirely on volunteer workers and community contributions. Its proceeds will be distributed among three nonprofits whose volunteers make the operation possible.
“We’ve had a strong service emphasis in our family,” said Maring, a Palatine resident who has volunteered with her church and as a Rotarian.
Maring was a lawyer for more than 20 years before she began working at a church in Rockford. She was inspired to open her own thrift store after seeing a church-operated one succeed.
She incorporated the organization in early 2011, and quickly gained backing from volunteers and donors, ranging from professionals who comprise the board of directors to a family-run charitable foundation, which has offered operational funds if needed.
Following her Christian beliefs that God is the true owner of one’s possessions and that people should risk only what they can afford to lose, Maring provided the capital funds required to open the store.
“I tease my husband that I’ve gone from being a lawyer to a picker,” she said. “My heart is really in it.”
“Sometimes Christians are perceived as being against things,” she added. “We want to be for things.”
Proceeds from thrift sales will be earmarked for three nonprofits — St. Peter Lutheran School in Arlington Heights, compassion programs at The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Arlington Heights, and Chicago-based Breakthrough Urban Ministries. While all are Christian organizations, they are not related denominationally.
“Our heart is to create funding for good causes,” Maring said. “We’re just trying to do something good. We don’t have an agenda other than that.”
In exchange for the funding, each of the three organizations sends volunteers to help operate Community Threads. They fulfill 150 three-hour volunteer shifts each week.
Their volunteer hours and items donated to the resale shop will be calculated to determine what percentage of proceeds each group has earned at the end of the year.
“What you put into it is what you can get out,” Maring said.
During one shift last week, two volunteers worked the cash registers as shoppers trickled in.
“I just would like to see it do well and be successful. It has a lot of good potential,” said Dianne Marzigliano, a Palatine resident who heard about the volunteer opportunity at Community Threads through St. Peter Church.
She was joined at the register by Rolling Meadows resident Jeannine Merkelez, a representative from The Orchard Evangelical Free Church.
“I like that we can offer things of high value to the community and raise money for the different charities we support,” Merkelez said. “Every day, new things are sold and new things come in.”
Maring said she already has been approached by community members who are unaffiliated with the three organizations but who are interested in volunteering. Outside volunteers are welcome and can choose to apply their volunteer hours to one of the three organizations; otherwise, the credit will be divided equally among them.
While the majority of the store’s stock was donated through the beneficiary organizations, community members also have stopped in to contribute unwanted items. A couch and a grandfather clock are among the big-ticket items that have been donated by members of the public.
“That’s so cool,” Maring said of the unsolicited community support. “I think everybody wants to do something good.”
When customers enter the shop, which was formerly home to Petersen’s furniture store, “they get surprised by the size, they get surprised by the price and they get surprised by the quality,” Maring said.
Community Threads boasts 14,000 square feet. The retail floor is sectioned into neatly organized departments, which include apparel (including maternity and petites), furniture, sporting goods, home décor, books, appliances and more.
“We’ve got a very solid thrift store, but we’ve put it in an environment that is clean, smells good and is pleasant,” Maring said. “We’re trying to provide an environment that is unthrift.”
While most of the items are priced in accordance with traditional thrift stores — baby clothes for $3, women’s clothes for $3 to $4, books for 50 cents to $1 — shoppers can also find discounts on higher-end goods. Last week’s wares included a gently used sofa for $75, a bookcase for $65, and, in the store’s designer apparel department, a Juicy Couture sweatshirt for $25 and Aldo shoes for $20.
“We rarely wear something out,” Maring said. “This is a great way to go green.”
After just one week of business, Maring said the store is attracting a cross-section of shoppers, including college students looking for furniture, bargain hunters, and people who beeline to the upscale section.
“That’s been a goal for us, to appeal to anyone who wants a deal,” she said. “We’re really trying to make it possible for people to shop with dignity and stay within their budgets."
“I’m still kind of in awe myself. We had this concept, but the way it’s come together has exceeded my expectations,” she said.