While shopping abounds in Barton County, there are a handful of shops that do more than simply make a profit. These stores give back to the community, and in Hoisington, the RSVP Thrift Store has been doing just that for the past 15 years
Selma Webb has been involved with the thrift store since it’s conception back in 2002. She and every other volunteer that has ever worked at the store never receives a paycheck, opting instead for the feeling that comes from giving of themselves.
Because of this, the store has been a quiet but powerful tool for promotion and support of a variety of volunteer efforts in the county, from the organization of Meal on Wheels to providing handyman services and medical transportation. These services Selma never tires of pointing out.
“If a person is sent out of town for a doctor’s appointment, RSVP can furnish a car and driver,” she said. “That helps a lot of people get to those appointments where they wouldn’t be able to otherwise.”
The day the store opened, she was there, and she has helped relocate the shop four times. Today she can be found there six days a week, taking in donations, scheduling volunteer help, and visiting with customers who come in search of a wide variety of things, both tangible and not.
There are customers who stop in regularly, in search of particular antiques and collectibles. They range from cookie jars to vintage clothing, as well as a particular brand of tableware. Kathy Copp, one of the 14 other volunteers, said it’s a go-to store for people looking for wedding reception decor.
“Ladies also come in to find a dish to complete a set they might have broke,” she said. And sometimes, as Selma added, they find sentimental items too.
“Sometimes if there are more children, maybe sister got grandma’s bowl, but the other sister was able to find one just like it here.”
This time of year, artificial flowers for grave decorations are a popular item, with Easter, Mother’s Day and Memorial Day coming up. According to Kandi Ulrich Wolf, volunteer coordinator for RSVP, this project is one that many hands in the community assist with.
Each year, after Memorial Day, Wolf and area Boy Scouts assist the city by helping with cleanup at the cemetery. This gets young people volunteering at an early age and also promotes recycling, she said. They collect the artificial arrangements, and bring them back to the RSVP office, where volunteers clean them. Then, they are sent to the store where volunteers sell them once more. It’s an economical way to honor loved ones.
Last month, a couple came to the store in search of information, rather than knickknacks. The granddaughter of one of the Becketts, whose name stands out on the brick face of the building, stopped in and visited with Selma last month, and Selma provided a tour of the building.
“I took her around,” she said. “She had some old pictures of the building, and I had some old pictures of the building, and that was pretty neat.”
The visit prompted Selma to request others who may have old photos of Main Street and the store to bring them by so she can share them with Beckett’s granddaughter in the future.
Getting to know people and helping them find what they need is what makes the work fun for Selma, she said.
Store supports other county-wide efforts
“Our thrift store probably nets anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000 a year,” said Linn Hogg, Director of RSVP of Central Kansas, Volunteers in Action and Meals On Wheels of Central Kansas. “We try to run it at the bare bones. That’s possible only because of the fact it’s run totally by volunteers, and all VIA is responsible for is minimal utilities and a very minimal rent. We don’t even have a telephone there.”
That money the store clears is put back into the non-profit by funding two volunteer recognition efforts each year, including the VIA and RSVP banquet in December and in February, a smaller event called P.S. I Love You. There are also gift cards for gas for drivers, and recognition for volunteers who assist with the AARP tax preparation for seniors program.
Recognizing volunteers is important, Hogg said, because without them, these programs couldn’t exist. Grants written to support the programs must include how volunteers will be recognized, too.
“It’s common sense,” she said. “You thank your volunteers, and you can’t thank them enough.”
But provisions for this are not included in money received through grants, nor through any governmental funding the programs may be eligible for, Hogg said.
And with President Donald Trump’s proposal to eliminate funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service, of which VIA, RSVP, and Meals On Wheels are part, the RSVP Thrift Store is now more vital than ever.
Keeping charity at home
For Selma and volunteers like her, giving back to the community in this way is life affirming.
After a tornado hit Hoisington in 2001, she began volunteering, sorting items that came to the old K-Mart building for distribution to those who were in need. She was able to connect with and help out her friends from Hoisington as they sought to regain a sense of home. Later, when the need for the distribution center had passed, most of the remaining items were sent to another location. Around that time, many of the RSVP volunteers felt a permanent thrift store would be welcome, and Selma suggested Hoisington as a location.
There, it wouldn’t impact the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Great Bend, and it would provide a needed opportunity for her town. The idea took hold, and in 2002, the first RSVP Thrift Store opened.
“A lot of people who donate to RSVP like the idea that these things stay here to help local people instead of being sent to other cities,” Selma said.
Donations make all the difference
As winter weather becomes a memory, and people in Barton County begin to contemplate spring cleaning and spring garage sales, this is also a busy time for the RSVP Thrift Store, and Selma and the other volunteers welcome the extra activity. That’s because everything sold at the store has been donated.
One of the best ways a community can support a thrift store is to understand, their donations are vitally needed, Hogg said. Everybody downsizes. The impact of taking some of their things and donating them to the thrift store may be helping to keep volunteers delivering meals. It could be keeping volunteers at the Red Cross blood drive.
“You have to realize, sometimes what you do may not seem to make an impact, but it can make a huge impact,” she said. “Just by cleaning out your closets and purging your kitchen, you can make a huge impact in your community.”
Often the thrift store receives what’s left after a garage or estate sale ends. Surprisingly, even though the individual may feel these items have no value, Selma disagrees.
“We don’t close at noon on Saturday,” she said. “We are open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. Not everybody likes to or can make it to a garage sale.”
Donations can be dropped off at the rear of the store located at 158 S. Main St., Hoisington, at the door marked RSVP. The RSVP office in Great Bend will also take small packages for those who wish to save the drive. Representatives visit the Hoisington store every week. Both Volunteers in Action and RSVP Thrift Store have facebook pages.