Second Act has served Cedarville for over three years by supplying people in need with clothing and through its partnerships with other local nonprofit organization.
“My mantra is, we’re not about a business. We are about relationships,” said Jill Mitchell-Kinney, manager of Second Act. “Our whole focus is to build relationships in the name of Christ.”
While originally a clothing pantry at the Cedarville United Methodist Church, Second Act now serves as a nonprofit thrift store under the Cedar Cliff Ministerial Association, which is an affiliation of churches in Cedarville and Clifton.
Mitchell-Kinney said her connections as a social worker helped her establish relationships with outside agencies and ministries to better help the community and assist people with Second Act’s voucher program. People in need can receive a voucher through a CCMA affiliated organization, church or social agency recommendation to receive $20 worth of free clothes a month from Second Act. Many people on their first visit are not limited by the dollar amount on the voucher.
“We have a lot of what we call coupon customers, and they’re anyone who is like in Greene Met housing, they’re in assistance … many single moms I suspect. It’s just very rewarding to see them come in and be able to help them clothe their children,” said Barbara Gilbert, a regular volunteer at Second Act.
Mitchell-Kinney said the store has also developed a close relationship with Safe Harbor House in Springfield, a faith-based program that assists women coming out of addiction, sex trafficking or abuse. Second Act provides the women in the Safe Harbor program with clothing and volunteer opportunities.
“There are a lot of needs in our community that often go unchecked,” Mitchell-Kinney said. “We are getting better and better at helping cover those needs, but yet assist them in developing skills. We don’t want to just give it to them and say ‘here you go,’ and disappear. We want to give it to them and develop relationships so they can learn to care for themselves and not be dependent. Nobody wants to be dependent.”
One way Second Act helps people support themselves is allowing them to volunteer at Second Act and learn job skills. Those who volunteer can be paid through a county grant.
“What they’re doing is being paid, but they are also learning work skills,” Mitchell-Kinney said. “They have to show up on time, they have to follow the job description, they have to dress according to what our requirement is and they are learning skills.”
Mitchell-Kinney said working in a Christian environment is also beneficial for the young moms who volunteer, and the older Christian women love investing in the young moms.
Many of the regular volunteers said the ability to witness to people and support the ministry is important to them. Some of the volunteers are disabled or unable to work full time and appreciate the opportunity to serve their community.
“It’s such a blessing in my life,” assistant manager Debby Stuart said. “I don’t have a full-time job because of an illness and so [volunteering] just really fulfills a need in my life.”
Another goal of Second Act is to assist the working class families in Cedarville, Mitchell-Kinney said.
“People think Cedarville is small and affluent because of the university, but the reality is that we are first a farm community and a working-class community,” Mitchell-Kinney said. “A lot of those folks didn’t want to take free clothing, but they would take clothing that they could pay for at cut rate.”
Because the store is a nonprofit, Mitchell-Kinney said all the money earned goes toward rent and then to the CCMA to support its other ministries: Parish Nursing and the food pantry. Parish Nursing provides in-home health assistance to people in Cedarville and is run by Grace Baptist Church. The food pantry is run by the Cedarville United Presbyterian Church and provides food to people in need.
“Last year we donated $10,000 to the running of the other Christian ministries,” Mitchell-Kinney said. “It’s really been a blessing.”
Second Act has also connected with a number of other ministries to better distribute the donations it receives. The store often receives more donations than it has space to sell or receives items it cannot sell. These items are sent to other organizations that can use them.
“When we first opened we gave to Goodwill. Then we heard about Good Neighbor. Now we give a lot to Good Neighbor,” Stuart said. “We really hardly ever throw anything away; it has to be really bad for us to throw it away.”
Ripped and damaged clothing is sent to Goodwill to be turned into rags. Soiled clothing and clothes that would not sell in Cedarville are sent to Good Neighbor House where they are cleaned and can be used in the Dayton area. Excess or early baby clothing, car seats, bottles and other baby items are sent to Miami Valley Women’s Center to support their crisis pregnancy program. Stained or damaged towels and blankets go to 4 Paws for Ability.
Stuart said sales have continued to grow since Second Act opened and they have adjusted pricing so they no longer charge more for newer items. Mitchell-Kinney and the other volunteers said the increase in business is due to greater visibility.
Murtha Kaercher, a regular volunteer said, “People know we’re here now, they didn’t at first.”
Mitchell-Kinney said she would like to expand Second Act’s visibility to the college students at Cedarville University and Central State University because college students cannot always afford new clothes.
Stuart said that she would like to see Second Act move to a bigger building in the future because they often have more donations than they can sell on the floor, but Mitchell-Kinney said there is no current plan to expand.
“We have a great location,” Mitchell-Kinney said. “We’re by the bank and the coffee shops and within walking distance of CU and most of our housing for that matter.”
Second Act will be receiving a larger shed because a tree fell on the old shed in August. The volunteers said the tree falling on the shed was God’s way of providing Second Act with a storage facility. The shed sits behind the store and is where people can bring donations to Second Act even when it’s closed.
Second Act’s biggest challenge is a shortage of volunteers. Despite the small number of volunteers, Stuart said Second Act always manages to have enough to run the store. However, Mitchell-Kinney said it would be nice to have more volunteers so they could expand the hours of the store and relieve some of the burden of sorting the donations.
Anyone who is interested in volunteering at Second Act can pick up an application at the store, and Mitchell-Kinney said that there is no minimum amount of time that volunteers have to work.
All the volunteers at Second Act said they like working there and love the opportunity to meet new people.
“It’s just a joy to work here, we have a wonderful time,” Kaercher said. “When you volunteer here you want to keep coming because it is so enjoyable, it’s so pleasant.”
Keegan D’Alfonso is a sophomore journalism major and the Off-Campus News editor for Cedars. He was a sergeant in the Marines and enjoys learning about and experiencing other cultures.