By Jan Schultz
IMPERIAL (SNR) - As St. Isidore’s Gift & Thrift in Imperial enters a new year and approaches its first decade of operation, prospects look bright for its work in serving people and families in need.
That’s the opinion of store manager Bill Sullivan, who has witnessed the growth of the store both in terms of physical size and the number of families served in nearly 10 years of operation.
Like the three other thrift stores Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska operates in the Lincoln Diocese, profits from St. Isidore in Imperial go to help families in need, Sullivan said. That will continue in southwest Nebraska even more as a new year unfolds, he hopes.
In 2017, more than 200 families received some type of help made possible from St. Isidore profits. That’s a lot of assistance that has even surprised officials in Lincoln, Sullivan said.
St. Isidore operates as an outreach of Catholic Social Services within the Lincoln Diocese. The Imperial thrift store is the newest of four stores in the diocese, that stretches south of the Platte River, from the Iowa border on the east to the Colorado border on the west. Other thrift stores are in Lincoln, Hastings and Auburn.
Opening in March 2008, St. Isidore was first located in St. Patrick Church’s fellowship hall a few blocks north of its current location at 527 Broadway in Imperial. The move to the Broadway location doubled the thrift store’s floor space, and greatly enhanced the space needed to sort and prepare items for display and sale.
Sullivan has served as the store’s only manager. He said he’s most proud of how, over the years, the store continues to help individuals and families in need.
“The store gives us an avenue to provide services to those in need and it also gives us the chance to practice our faith,” he said.
“We are in a unique situation where we can be a go-between for those feeling far from the Church, and being good witnesses to those outside the Church. We’ve had many of the public comment on how they love our mission and what we do,” Sullivan said.
Through its tie with the diocese and other networking, services have expanded in southwest Nebraska, he noted.
For instance, St. Isidore’s Gift & Thrift recently was set up as a partner with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), where applications can be made for state benefits for families in need.
Kate Davis serves as the Imperial Emergency Services Coordinator. She works closely with Sullivan on direct emergency services locally, and also helps provide families with a link to other agencies that can help in their individual situations.
Help given in several areas
From St. Isidore’s profits, assistance to individuals and families comes in several areas, including:
- Assistance in paying utilities, rent or other bills. These funds are restricted to payment for living necessities only. Sullivan emphasized that money is paid directly to the utility company, or for rent to landlords “to keep a roof over their heads” in emergencies. Money is not given directly to the recipient, and funds are not provided for items like televisions, cell phones or mortgage payments.
- Basic household goods are sometimes provided directly to families, including beds, cookware, bedding, towels, dishes and other day-to-day needs.
- Food is provided for those without enough to eat, or those facing a temporary crisis where money normally used for food was needed elsewhere.
- Medical equipment is loaned free of charge, including items such as wheelchairs, walkers and portable toilets.
- Gasoline for vehicles is provided for those in need of basic transportation for work or medical appointments, as examples.
- Transportation costs to other cities can also be provided for those with critical situations and an immediate need to relocate.
- Funds have also aided families with the coordination of emergency and expedited legal services.
All of the items for sale at St. Isidore are donated, Sullivan said, and those donors are also a part of the store’s mission. They are very much appreciated, he said.
“People who donate to us are very much a part of our service,” he said.
Sullivan said the following “gently used” items are accepted for resale at St. Isidore’s: furniture, appliances in good running condition, household and decor items, knickknacks, cookware and kitchen items, seasonal items and clothing that is clean and in good condition.
Eight to 10 regular volunteers help keep the store running by working the registers, pricing items and arranging the decor, Sullivan noted. There are also a number of students who work occasional hours, which helps many of them meet required community service hours at school.
As 2018 arrives, Sullivan has goals for the new year.
“We are always looking to expand our hours to be open more. It’s also a goal to continue to increase our profits to expand our services to more folks,” he said.
It’s been a blessing, he added, that they were able to move to their current location more than four years ago.
Sullivan’s realization of people and their needs has also expanded, he said.
“My eyes have been opened to so much more than just their physical needs,” he said.