MONROE, CT — Monroe Congregational Church’s Mustard Seed Thrift Shop will be fully stocked with summer clothes, shoes, jewelry, home goods and accessories when store volunteers open the blue doors of the white clapboard building, at the corner of Monroe Turnpike and Church Street, on April 23.
The thrift shop, which raises money for MCC’s missions and donates clothing to charitable causes, has been closed since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, causing a shutdown last March.
“We’ve been hemming and hawing about when we could open,” said Margaret Villani, a church volunteer, adding they had tried, but were unable to reopen last fall. “Now all our workers have their shots,” she said of the vaccines, “and all of our safety measures are in place.”
A clear barrier in set up on the front counter and the shop has containers of hand sanitizer. There will also be a limit on the number of shoppers at any one time and customers will not be allowed to try things on.
On Tuesday afternoon, Villani worked with fellow church members and volunteers Lois Spence, Joyce Rousseau and Jan Pearson to prepare for opening day, which will feature a half price sale.
The Mustard Seed Thrift Shop will be open on Friday, April 23, and Saturday, April 24, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Then, going forward, the shop will be open at that time on Fridays and Saturdays until further notice.
Spence said the shop will also be open during MCC’s annual Strawberry Festival, which will be back this year.
In addition to the women volunteering on Tuesday, Ann Zeiner is instrumental to operating the store, which is run with the help of anywhere from 15 to 20 volunteers, who are all church members, according to Villani.
Shopping for bargains, supporting charities
The Mustard Seed Thrift Shop has been a fixture in town for over 50 years. Aside from offering quality merchandise to its customers at low prices, the proceeds benefit local charities like the Bridgeport Rescue Mission and Covenant to Care.
Villani said Monroe Social Services calls the church when donations are needed for Project Warmth, the Monroe Food Pantry and the Friendship Fund, which uses money to support the Back to School Buddies program, augmenting school supply donations the Monroe Women’s Club receives. The fund is also used to buy gifts for the Holiday Giving Tree program.
When families lose their belongings in a fire, Social Services comes to the thrift shop for donations of clothing and household items, according to Villani.
Because the shop has been closed, she said the church has only been making clothing donations, rather than financial ones. For example, last summer church missions gave clothing to Mission Lakota in North Dakota, the Bridgeport Rescue Mission and the Center for Family Justice.
Reopening the thrift shop will allow the church to raise money again, so the financial donations can start flowing.
“We help support the church and all its missions,” said Spence. “We don’t make a lot of money. We stretch it as far as we can.”
The Mustard Seed Thrift Shop receives its merchandise from donations of items. Church members’ donations will allow the store to reopen, but Villani encourages residents to look for the donation box, which will be outside again soon.