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Love donated and clients reap the reward

Written by Mike Siroky. Posted in Community News, Featured

Published on April 25, 2012 with No Comments

Chesterton’s Duneland resale is ‘Faith In Action’

While it may be hard to totally understand what Duneland Resale has become, it’s was not hard to imagine what it was supposed to be.

Initially, the mission committee of St. John United Methodist Church in Chesterton was looking for a new way to expand its outreach into the communities it served.

“We knew there was lots of poverty and homelessness in the area,” said volunteer Ann Howard. “As the mills continued to decline (it had been decades), it just got worse.

That’s when the idea of resale came up, she said.

“Some on the committee were dubious. It took a lot of discussion. And we wanted to make sure it was at least citywide, not necessarily tied into the church.”

The resale shop is more than a success. To many, it is a community center, where friends meet friends, where friends volunteer with friends and where everyone is welcome.

They have moved from building to bigger building, always being fortunate to be able to sell the previous structure. The shop is now located in what many remember as the former Wise Way store at 801 Broadway. It’s the shop’s fourth location.

But that’s just the building. What is inside, both in spirit and in person, is what counts.

One of the neat aspects is that former physicians, business leaders and elected officials all fall into the mix.  There are no titles, just volunteers, all on a first-name basis.

“We have more volunteers and community support than we could have imagined,” Howard said.

“People donate for various reasons. Some will hear of what we do with the profits and donate for that reason, for the cause. They might know a ‘Dorothy Smith’ who works there and decide they want to be there, too,” she said. “Some will say they wanted to ‘send my friend over here,’ because he was looking for something to do.”

There are related groups like Friends of Resale and Regular Resale Shoppers that thrive. Sometimes, it’s the socialization that’s important.  The shop serves as the gathering place. Volunteers have taken field trips together to concerts and plays. They have celebrated births and memorialized deaths in their family.

So, what started with less than a dozen volunteers has grown to almost a hundred regulars and  27 hours of official business each week. The shop receives no financial support from anyone else.

There are the usual costs of doing business, of course, such as electric, insurance and building maintenance. In the early days, one now-departed volunteer paid the water bill without anyone knowing it.

Folks from 20 communities are involved. Clergy members screen those in need at their churches and obtain gift certificates for use in the shop.

What’s more, volunteers have assisted families with the travel cost to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.  They have volunteered as teams and walked in many charitable events, such as Relay for Life.  If they hear of a family needing help for for other medical costs, money will be anonymously given.

Beyond that, there is the Resale Community Center with its social services all under one roof, including the food pantry.

Sometimes, child or parent will discover they do not have enough money to pay for items they want at the shop.  The cashier may just say the money they do have covers the bill.  At Christmastime, customers register for a percentage off their bills.  Those receiving 100 percent off joyously announce it to the whole store.

“People will say, ‘Why don’t you just give the items away?’” Howard said. “And the answer is we do have costs and we do have designated charities but we certainly don’t deny many customers.”  The shop itself anonymously donates unused items to more than 100 charities, from medical centers to missions.

A wide array of customers visits the shop for a variety of reasons. Local theater groups come in and find costuming for their productions. Staffers from the Westchester Public Library pick up items to enliven displays. Lawyers for those in need shop for the proper courtroom attire for their clients.

Volunteer Joy Johnston recalls a family whose mom was dying of cancer.   The grandmother had taken over the care of the children though her own income was limited to Social Security.  They had “just enough” by Joy’s tally to get what they wanted. “Thank you for my bed,” said one of the children. “I don’t have to sleep on the floor anymore.”

Johnston also knows of a child who saved all his money – gifts from holidays and Christmas – until he could buy the three-wheeled bike he saw at the shop for a neighbor with multiple sclerosis.

With all the examples Howard has heard through her dozen-years at the shop, someone suggested she start taking notes. She did. The result is a book about the store, “A Miracle in Progress” and is available in the shop.

One of the principles for success, said Howard, is something she learned through another volunteer opportunity, this time at the Westchester Library.

“They always taught us, ‘People First,’ which means remember to treat everyone with dignity. And we do.”

Duneland Resale is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon. To find out more, call 219-926-1404 or visit www.dunelandresale.com.

There are always smiling faces ready to help at Chesterton Duneland Resale. The items are clean and arranged in easy-to-browse selection areas. The shop is now located in what many remember as the former Wise Way store at 801 Broadway, Chesterton.

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About Mike Siroky

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All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the above excellent column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Mike Siroky is a writer and editor. He is a native of Northwest Indiana. He has worked in media from coast to coast. To contact Mike, email mikel@the chronicleNWI.com

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