Love Flows Through – Bethesda Thirft Store in Valparaiso is one of a kind

Written by Contributor. Posted in Business, Business Spotlight, Community News, Featured, Senior Living

Published on February 18, 2015 with No Comments

In the Bible, Bethesda is defined as a pool in Jerusalem that was believed to have healing powers. Although the Bethesda Thrift Shop does not have healing powers, it definitely has God’s love flowing through it. The Bethesda Thrift Shop in Valparaiso is one of 19 other shops through the country created by Bethesda Lutheran Communities to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Bethesda Thrift Shop is located at 50 Marks Rd in Valparaiso. For more information, visit or call 219-548-3931. Every Wednesday is senior day. All seniors 55 years and older receive 25 percent off all regular priced items, with the exception of new merchandise and products made by people who receive supports and services from Bethesda.

The 111-year-old organization started in Watertown, Wisc. and was created by a group of Lutheran parents that had children with developmental disabilities and nowhere to take them. The thrift shops themselves help fund group homes and other organizational projects throughout the U.S. Generating an annual profit of $1.2 million could not have been done without the 3,330 volunteers supporting Bethesda.

One volunteer, Anita Graef, founded the Valparaiso store with her husband five years ago. They had had been working in thrift shops for more than 13 years and had previously owned their own thrift store.

“I started this store because I knew people with disabilities and wanted to help them,” Graef said. “The most rewarding thing about doing this is knowing that I can help someone that can’t help themselves.”

Graef and her husband come in everyday, stay all day and they aren’t even paid staff. The Valparaiso store only has three paid staff members and up until three and a half years ago, it was completely run by volunteers.

All of the stores run on donations which can range from baby clothes to old records, and all things are checked and looked over by the volunteers.

“Our store has good donors. They give us great items,” store manager Linda Flener said.

Since the average store is 10,000 to 15,000 square feet, Bethesda Resale Shops hold a lot of unique items for sale. Going into any of their 19 stores, you will see their mission statement: “To enhance the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through services that share the good news of Jesus Christ.”

And that is exactly what they do.

All of the money made at these stores goes to helping people in need. Joseph Smoot, a market director for Bethesda, knows exactly how it can help people.

“While I was visiting a store, a woman came up to me and said that she had been waiting nine years to get in to a group home and that it was the most important thing to happen to her,” he said.

These stores create safe places for developmentally disabled people to not only feel accepted and loved, but to also help those who want to find Christ do so. At the peak of their organization, they were helping 605 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“The most rewarding thing is going to group homes and hanging out with the staff and the people that we support,” Ross Boettcher, Bethesda’s public relations specialist, said.

For someone to start volunteering at a Bethesda Resale Shop, the process is very easy seeing that anyone can come in and fill out an application. Bethesda will conduct a background check and then they will invite you to volunteer if approved. Anyone from church youth groups to people that need community service for a DUI have walked through Bethesda’s doors to volunteer.

They are volunteering for a great cause too. In a world where most organizations are only focused on money for the CEOs, Bethesda is focused on helping those in need. They are a great example of what it means to be the hands and feet of God.

The Bethesda Thrift Shop is located at 50 Marks Rd in Valparaiso. For more information, visit or call 219-548-3931.


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