NEW BETHLEHEM – In March 1983, a new “clothing-thrift-exchange” center opened for business in New Bethlehem to serve those in need while helping local nonprofits.
Now dubbed Valley Thrift Shop, the all-volunteer run organization will celebrate its 40th anniversary next week with a two-day celebration at its Broad Street location.
“As we take time to reflect, we are reminded of the legacy that the Valley Thrift Shop has in the Redbank Valley,” states a recent press release announcing the milestone anniversary, pointing to “the vast number” of area individuals who have donated items to stock the shelves and the volunteers who operate the shop to complete its mission over the last four decades.
“Our mission began and continues to be one that donates to local nonprofits,” Valley Thrift Shop co-director Debbie Silvis added earlier this week.
According to the release, the original “clothing-thrift-exchange” center opened at 10 a.m. on Friday, March 4, 1983 in a yellow brick house along Wood Street — where the parking lot next to Zack’s restaurant is now located — in New Bethlehem. The store was slated to operate from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays.
“That opening was the culmination of volunteer efforts by many area individuals and churches who were attempting to help the area needy,” the release states, noting that the center was designed as a cooperative effort that included volunteers from 23 churches.
Inventory for the new store came as donations from the Hadassah Thrift Shop in Pittsburgh, and included clothing, shoes, boots, household and kitchen items and books.
“Everything was priced reasonably and there were opportunities to help in cases of emergencies,” the release notes. “All revenue above rent and utilities was to be donated to local nonprofit organizations.”
Eventually, the center outgrew its original housing and Valley Thrift Shop opened in its current location along Broad Street in the early 1990s, completely managed by volunteers who work to organize this local mission effort. In addition to the original inventory items, the Thrift Shop now includes linens, seasonal decor, jewelry, CDs, DVDs and magazines.
“Volunteers are pleased to accept donations when the store is open,” states the release, explaining that the shop replaces its entire stock twice a year, in March and August, and offers two weeks of free-to-the-public merchandise.
“The Thrift Shop provides shopping opportunities at reasonable prices, as well as in cases of emergencies,” Silvis said, adding that all remaining inventory at the end of each season moves on to a third party. “We are also a source of items that people just love to repurpose in creative ways.”
Reflecting on the past 40 years, Silvis, along with co-director Judy Jacklin, said they couldn’t help but be grateful to the vast number of area residents who have donated and continue to donate clothing, housewares, books and other items to Valley Thrift Shop, as well as those who shop at the store.
“I don’t think that this store would be in business if it wasn’t for the [community] support,” Silvis said. “If the community did not support this, it would not be in business, and we wouldn’t be able to do this mission of helping out the local nonprofits.”
Silvis also thanked the many volunteers over the years who have sorted and displayed items, and assisted customers.
“Hundreds of volunteers have kept Valley Thrift Shop in operation for 40 years,” she said. “This accomplishment would not have been successful without this ‘village of volunteers.’”
Long-time Thrift Shop volunteer Harriet Cressman agreed, reciting a quote from Canadian curler Sherry Anderson, which is displayed prominently on the desk at the shop.
“Volunteers don’t get paid; not because they’re worthless but because they’re priceless,” she said.
Currently, 51 volunteers operate the shop.
“Our volunteers put in well over 2,000 hours,” Jacklin said.
As intended when the Thrift Shop first opened its doors in 1983, shop officials pointed out that all revenue — with the exception of rent and utilities — continues to be donated to local nonprofit organizations.
“That’s important,” said shop volunteer Bonnie McDaniel. “Our profits do stay in the area.”
“We care about the Valley; that’s why the profits stay here,” Silvis agreed. “That was the initial idea, and it still exists today.”
Valley Thrift Shop will celebrate its 40th anniversary with an open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, March 23 and Friday, March 24. The event will feature door prizes, refreshments, a 1983-themed window display and an all new spring inventory.
While no donations will be accepted during this celebration, everyone is invited to attend.
Valley Thrift Shop is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.