“Many times I’m brought to tears just reflecting on how these people just give and give.” Becky Zondervan, store manager of the New 2 You Thrift Store in Willmar, was talking about the amazing volunteers who work in the store, who give of their time and talents day after day. “I just can’t say how much I appreciate the volunteers….we’d be nowhere if we didn’t have our volunteers.”
New 2 You originally opened its doors in 2007 and has now been in the remodeled building along First Street since July of 2011. Zondervan said they’ve not only added a lot of floor space, but their entire donation center is at least six times the size of what they had to start with. “And we have everything on ground level for the shopper where in the former store we had merchandise upstairs.” Now the only thing they use the upstairs for is for storage and offices.
Darci Post, business manager, said while most of the building is the thrift store, a portion of it is La Scene, which is accessed through a different entrance. “It’s a department of New 2 You, but it’s run separately. It contains all brand-name clothing, and it has a separate manager.”
Zondervan said they set that area apart so it would have its own vibe. She said they wanted to attract a different clientele, not just those that are looking for great deals, reduced cost on clothing and articles. “La Scene is not just a name brand, it’s trendy. It could be maybe a Wal-Mart shirt, but it’s very trendy. It’s what the young people like and up to 50 or so age-wise.” It has clothes for men and women, and actually any age, she said, and the clothes are 100 percent donations, there are no consignments.
The idea for the store and the name La Scene came from a mother-daughter volunteer duo, Jessie Kneprath and her daughter, Ella. It started upstairs of the former store. In addition to clothes it has an extensive jewelry and accessory department. “I told Ella to come up with a name, and La Scene is what she chose.”
Zondervan, in talking about New 2 You, said they have incredible volunteers that stepped up and owned each department, so to speak.
“They take full responsibility of organizing and staging each department. We’ve got women that come in and use their talents with sorting and displaying the antiques, crafts, and jewelry.”
In the household area of New 2 You, they have one woman that comes in and stages all the décor. “It’s amazing to see every week when it’s redone.” That work is done on Mondays and Tuesdays when the store is closed. “We’re here working. We’re not closed because we want to take those two days off; we’re here cleaning, restocking and restaging.” She said another volunteer does the entire outer wall, completely setting it up with different outfits, shoes and purse ensembles. “We’re really amazed. It looks like a department store here.” She added, “a lot of people say that they love the organization of the place, how clean it is and just how it’s staged. It has something for everyone.”
Post said one thing they really wanted in the new store was to have it as open as possible. The store ebbs and flows, she said, and when they have a little less of something they can move that into a display area. They also have room enough to display entire beds and dressers, so customers actually get to see the full set. “That’s what’s been so much fun about this new store. We actually have the room. The idea was to have enough room to do some more display work.”
Zondervan said she knew with the new store they would increase their customer base, and she was hoping to increase their volunteer base as well. “We have had a lot of people step up to be volunteers, but we can always use more.” The men are awesome helpers, she said; they really go the extra mile and clean and fix things. “We really appreciate the men’s help in the back room.”
Post said they have women volunteers who will put zippers in and buttons on. “We don’t want to do too much of that because we don’t want to waste their time either, but occasionally if it’s a beautiful jacket and it needs a zipper and they’re willing, they love to be able to help.”
Zondervan said they’re very pleased with the commitment the volunteers give to New 2 You. “It’s just amazing to me, and what I’ve found, too is that at this age group volunteers are everywhere, not just here.” They’re helping their neighbors, she said, driving them to doctor’s appointments, delivering Meals on Wheels, volunteering at the food shelf, and at the hospital.
The next generation, the baby boomers, are willing to work if they have a project for them. If they have a semi-trailer of items coming in that has to be unloaded, they usually have a lot of volunteers show up. “But we need the people here, the core group that keeps it going day after day. We’re looking for those. We’re looking for people that want to have fun and just enjoy good friendship and support.” She said they go so far to say “this feels like family here.” “People care for each other here and it’s moving. We laugh together; we cry together; we pray together, and we work. It’s a wonderful place to use your talents.”
Post said the volunteers work in the area in which they’re most comfortable. If they don’t enjoy going through clothing or tagging items, they can do something else. “If you’re good at cashiering we’d love to have more cashiers, if you enjoy putting out clothing we need that. We need maintenance men, and we’d love to have more men. That’s something we get asked all the time. The guys that work here say ‘get us more men.’” If you like to tag and sort that’s another area to work in. There are many different jobs, from books to crafts to jewelry. “There are so many different things you can do, and even if you can’t spend a whole day every week, we can take two hours, half a day, once a month. We prefer more but if that’s all you can give that’s what we’ll take.”
Zondervan said people sometimes think to themselves, “what can I give, what can I do.” “We see all the time that people make a difference here just by coming in. Maybe they think by themselves they aren’t making a difference, but we know that they are. If everybody would give a dollar to an organization they’d have a lot of money, and it’s the same thing here. It’s not so much in dollars; we’re looking at what can you give.” Zondervan said they need volunteers to come and just be walking on the floor and willing to help the customers. “They don’t have to run the till or tag things, just having people here that would be willing to help customers, show them where things are, and maybe run back and get something re-priced.”
Last fall was overwhelming for donations, she said. And the fall season is their biggest time for selling because the kids are back in school; Halloween is around the corner as is Christmas, the hunting season and so many things. “People are donating because they’re done with their garage sales, they’ve had one in the spring and one in the fall and now are going to donate it, and they’re just cleaning up getting ready for winter.” She said they had so many donations they actually had to rent a semi-trailer to store their off-season merchandise, which is a wonderful problem to have.
Post said again they really need volunteers. “We’re looking for people to come in, to step forward and say ‘what can we do, how can we make a difference.’ Our new tag line is ‘making a difference in our life, our community and our world.’”
Everything that is brought to New 2 You is basically recycled in one way or another. “If it’s something we don’t feel we can get out on the floor, Becky has found numerous places that she can donate to. And very locally we work with the disabled American Veterans, the Salvation Army, and Hope Pregnancy. Also there are people that pick up things for Africa, Honduras and Haiti.”
New 2 You is open for donations Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursday nights until 8 p.m. Shopping hours are limited to Wednesday through Saturday, and again Thursday nights they’re open until 8 p.m. Sundays are the only day they’re completely closed. La Scene follows the same hours.
Central Minnesota Christian School of Prinsburg is the owner of New 2 You and that’s where all the proceeds from the business go. Zondervan is the main store manager, Post is the business manager, plus they have an assistant manager. La Scene has a manager and a manager that works between the two stores. All are part time except for Zondervan and Post.
The fact that the store is basically run with volunteers is awesome, volunteers who are willing to do whatever needs doing. Zondervan urges anyone interested in volunteering to come see what they can be a part of. “It’s a big family and a fun family to be a part of.” Also, she said, they have a few people that are just starting retirement and sometimes they can feel so lost. “They don’t know for sure where they should be and what they should be doing, and coming here it just seems like they find a home; they find a way to use their talents; they can do what they want, come when they want and give as much as they want. Remember, you can be a part of making a difference.”