By Chloe Smith
What does it mean to be the hands and feet of Jesus? For one small thrift store in Cedarville, it means helping the community in any way they can. And it started with a few donations of used clothing.
The Cedarville United Methodist Church used to place donated clothes on the pews for those in need to take. But while donations piled up, the church began to run out of space. And so the idea of a thrift store was born.
The church was offered a space downtown with minimal rent, and in 2013, Second Act Thrift Store opened under the direction of Cedar Cliff Ministerial Association, a network of churches and ministries that also provides food and nursing equipment to those in need.
Second Act is completely staffed by volunteers and donates all proceeds to helping anyone in need. For Jill Mitchell-Kinney, the thrift store presented an opportunity to serve her community. A mom of five kids, she loved looking for deals in the thrift stores. She also had a background in social work, which prepared her for the role of running the shop, as well as finding connections with Greene County social services for those with more complicated needs.
“We feel very strongly that you have to meet their physical needs before you can reach out to them in Christ.” Mitchell-Kinney said. “We are the hands and feet of Jesus. We can’t just slam a Bible at them. We hope that we plant a seed by just being kind.”
The shop is often frequented by school kids in the area, reaching into the basket of free snacks by the register. Many college students from outside of Cedarville arrive as well, after hearing about Second Acts’ incredibly low prices. The shop maintains an atmosphere of community and friendliness, building relationships through conversations. Sometimes the volunteers can give someone one of the many free Bibles the shop offers.
They even take requests. Teachers from the local schools will send in wish lists for items they need for their classrooms or for students with a unique need. Second Act also connects with places such as Safe Harbour House in Springfield. Survivors in need of a new wardrobe are sent down to the shop and able to start their new lives with the clothing they need.
The town of Cedarville is also home to many subsidized apartments. These buildings have reduced rent and are available for elderly, low-income families, or survivors escaping an abuse situation. Many times they move in with nothing but the walls around them and often don’t have access to a car. Second Act can step up then, giving them the basics to start their new home, or offer rides to places they need to go.
“Do we get taken advantage of? Sometimes, but not often,” Mitchell-Kinney said. “There’s a fine line between enabling and helping. We have the resource, we are going to share it. And if you misuse that resource, that’s not on us.”
The store may be a small space, but it is well utilized. Oftentimes Second Act has too many donations, and so they forward those on to other places. Clothing that may be stained or damaged can be recycled through Goodwill’s fabric recycling connections. Second Act has an extensive network, through Facebook and the churches, and so specific items, such as furniture, can be sent to someone who needs it.
Other than material items, Second Act’s proceeds help fund Feed the Ville, a program designed to provide weekend meals for children who don’t have them. Many kids often rely on the free meals at school to feed themselves and are left hungry from Friday night until Monday morning. Feed the Ville is there to prevent that.
The network of volunteers is mostly made up of widowed older women and college students, who enjoy speeding their time giving back to the community and keeping the store in
its best condition it can be.
“The Lord has blessed us with good people and a good system and people willing to donate.” Mitchell-Kinney said. “They love to donate when they know the money is going to go out and be spread out.’’
As long as people are willing to donate, the Second Act thrift store will continue to run into the future. What seems like an insignificant shop wedged between bricks is an overflowing network of kindness to those who are often overlooked.