A new thrift store in the southeast Oklahoma City neighborhood known as Shidler-Wheeler benefits nearby residents in ways far beyond the inexpensive prices for everything from clothing and furniture to Valentine's cards and jewelry.
Sally Goin, founder and director of FaithWorks of the Inner City, said the new Shidler-Wheeler Community Thrift Store is providing jobs, a viable business and a place of fellowship for many who walk through the door.
“The more we talked about it, the more we decided this was the direction God wanted us to go,” she said.
“It's another step for our ministry.”
FaithWorks opened the store at 735 SE 15 in December. A grand opening is planned Friday and Jan. 25.
Goin, 63, said the thrift store is just one more addition to a growing number of services and programs offered by FaithWorks, which she founded in 2001. The retired Edmond schoolteacher's love affair with the mostly Hispanic Shidler-Wheeler neighborhood began with her mentoring sessions of a young boy who eventually attended Shidler Elementary School.
Goin's FaithWorks provided school uniforms, backpacks and Christmas gifts for students at the school for many years before the ministry built a community center across the street from the school.
She said the ministry purchased the 9,000-square-foot building that houses the store and refurbished it with help from the Green family that owns Oklahoma City-based crafts retailer Hobby Lobby. Goin said Hobby Lobby had initially been contacted to paint the store's interior but eventually crews acting at the business' behest put in new windows, doors, flooring, parking lot striping, heating and air and restrooms.
“They completely redid the store. They are amazing friends to FaithWorks,” Goin said.
More than a store
Jace Kirk, FaithWorks assistant director, serves as manager of the thrift store. He said ministry leaders modeled the thrift store after a similar project they discovered while attending a Focus Community Strategies conference in Atlanta. Kirk, 31, said Hopefully Yours, a thrift store that benefits the Hope Center of Edmond, is at least one other shop with a similar focus as the new Shidler-Wheeler store.
He said the thrift store is a natural byproduct of the growing friendships and interconnected relationships that have developed between FaithWorks staff and volunteers and the people they serve. He said the store has been sort of a community hub as neighborhood residents wander in to shop or chitchat.
“The word ‘community' is in our store name for a reason,” he said.
“This has turned into more than just a thrift store,” she said.
As an example, she walked a recent visitor to an area in the back of the store where a group of women sort donated clothing and other items.
One of the women, Marlene Briones, a volunteer cook at the FaithWorks community center, said the store has given many of them employment and something of purpose.
Briones said the thrift store has helped many neighborhood families with big needs but little money.
“It's a really good thing for our community. For a lot of families that have a low economic level, this helps out a lot,” she said, as she looked through a rack of women's shirts.
“I'm here everyday to buy something,” she said, grinning.
Bridging the gaps
Goin said Briones also is part of Bridging the Gap, a FaithWorks program that provides housing for some of the community residents.
Goin said many of the women who work or volunteer at the store didn't have jobs due to lack of transportation or other reasons.
She said Briones' mother was basically housebound until she was persuaded to help at the store.
“Now she comes in and helps sort clothes. If she finds holes, she takes them home and repairs them,” Goin said. “She's like a grandmother to our community, and her daughter said her whole demeanor has changed. I think it really helps for people to have a purpose.”
Kirk said the store also allows the ministry to employ neighborhood teenagers through a work training program created just for them.
Gonzalo Vasquez, 19, a University of Central Oklahoma sophomore who is a FaithWorks intern, said the work experience is invaluable for the young people.
“For a lot of the teenagers, it's their first job opportunity,” he said.