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Thriving at the Thrift Store
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By Mary Haskett

To walk into the Bibles for Missions Thrift Store at 2020 Hyde Park Road, takes one by surprise. Although the store frontage does suggest this is more than a second hand store, a first time visitor may well stand back and exclaim, "Wow", as I did. The lay out and display of goods equals any major store. Uniformed signs hang from the ceiling, directing customers to aisles of, men's wear, women's wear, children’s clothing, shoes, beautiful china elegantly displayed, toys, kitchen and electrical gadgets, with every electrical cord neatly wound and sealed with tape. No jumble of goods to rummage through-no suggestion that this is a second store-all is elegance personified, with every item neatly price tagged.

The furniture department is equally attractive with bookcases, china cabinets, televisions, computer monitors and much more.

With Christmas not far away there are even gift packages ranging from five to twelve dollars. All this has been achieved in one year. The "soft opening" occurred December 12th 2012, with the Grand opening February of this year.

The high standard is undoubtedly set by the store manager, Linda Richardson, a charming and elegant woman who is obviously the driving force behind all that transpires at the Bibles for Missions Thrift Store. Linda has been in church missions in one form or another for over forty years. With her husband Bill, they served as church planting pastors in the Salvation Army. Bill also worked with Correctional Services, Canada. Currently they pastor a small work in their London home called, 'New Beginnings', with the possibility in the near future of moving into a church building.

Linda had been the store manager of the Bible for Missions Thrift Store in Kingston for two years, when she received a call asking her to manage the new store in London. Linda says, "I love it here." It is obvious she has a natural ability for leadership, finances, organization and administration. She acknowledges these are her God given talents.

Volunteers

There are close to 140 volunteers on the roster. Each potential volunteer completes an application form and is interviewed by Linda. She gives them a tour of the 16,000 ft facility and choices as to which department they would like to work in. Volunteers agree to a one time slot of four hours per week. But many do more.

On April 15th 2013, Marie Webb, with her husband Ellwood, went to the store to donate goods. The mission focus tugged at her heart. She and her husband, retired missionaries, had witnessed firsthand the benefits of receiving Bibles for people when they served in Bolivia, South America, and the Mexico- Texas border. Marie decided to inquire about volunteering. Ellwood said he wasn't interested. But as Linda showed them around the store Marie sensed Ellwood’s interest was piqued. Linda gave them, not one, but two, application forms just in case. Today the couple is in the store everyday giving many more than their required four hours. Marie says, "Our drive and passion is to see the ministry prosper. Every time we make a sale, we say, 'There's another Bible.'"

Not every person who volunteers at the store is a professing Christian. However there is a warm and welcoming spirit from all the volunteers as they interact with customers.

Once a person comes on staff they have the choice of working in areas which appeal to them and are consequently assigned with a seasoned volunteer to learn the ropes. Among the volunteers are 35 trained cashiers. Each morning, before the store opens at 10 am, the staff meets for a briefing and more importantly for devotions.

The Workshop and Receiving Department

Donations to the store come from the good citizens of London. The store will only take merchandize in excellent shape. If unsuitable items arrive in the department they are recycled, clothes are sold to a salvage company and other non suitable items to Green-tech. The monies received are then channeled back into the mission. The workshop resembles a beehive of activity, cheerful people with ready smiles at different stations sort through products.

They check each item and price as per the guidelines. Clothes are cleaned if necessary, and all china, glasses and vases are washed and polished to a shine before going out to the store.

Auctions

Exquisite items and antiques are donated for auction. The auctions occur every other Tuesday. The items are given a floor price then displayed close to the check-out. Customers can start bidding over the two week period and on the day of auction there's palpable excitement as all is revealed. The largest amount to date is $1400.00

Where Does the Money Go?

The money is sent to Bibles for Mission Foundation, who in turn sends it on to the Bible League of Canada. The league then determines its distribution, to such needs as, children's programs, literacy programs, lay pastors, church planters, and needless to say thousands of Bibles go to the mission field.

How did it all Begin?

Excerpts from the Volunteer Guidebook

"In 1988 two men [from the Christian reformed Church] joined a mission trip to India sponsored by The Bible League of Canada. Before the trip began, they were asked to consider this question; "How can I be an instrument in God's hand to help the people of India?” Once in India, they began to see the people's need for God's Word...they returned home, took action and began building homes and selling them for profit, which they donated to the Bible League. They established thrift stores which joined many Christians in prayer and service….In 1989 the first…store opened in Chilliwack BC...."

Today there are 44 Bibles for Missions Thrift Stores across Canada. Each store has its own identity, and all with the focus to further the Kingdom of God.

Linda says, "Bible Missions is a fun place to work. Most of our clientele come by word-of-mouth. We have clients coming from every area of the city and beyond. People come from St Thomas, Strathroy and even further afield. Our goal is to make our clients feel welcomed." Of the volunteers she says, "Together we are a team and you can't be on a team unless your goals and desires are the same. The Lord is in the midst of it, and we start and end our day with Him."