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Volunteers happy parish resale stores reopen following pandemic closure

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St. Stanislaus Convent Resale Shop volunteers, (from left) Ron Plamowski, Allen and Mary Ann Short and Donna Schmidt, arrange and dust displays on June 26. A number of parish resale shops have reopened since closing in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Bob Wellinski photo)

 

BY BOB WELLINSKI

NWIC correspondent

 

      “We’re back.”

      Those long-awaited words are posted on St. Mary’s Thrift Shop Facebook page. After nearly three months of being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Mary in Michigan City and other parish thrift/resale shops are opening back up.

      “Everybody’s happy to be back. Everyone is tired of being isolated,” said Fay Iorio. She admitted she was worried some volunteers may have concerns about coming back due to COVID-19, but “everyone was anxious to come back.”

      Iorio, a Holy Spirit parishioner, is the manager of Winfield Resale Shoppe, a partnership between Holy Spirit, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Cross of Christ Lutheran, Church of the Four Seasons and the Winfield Township Trustee.

      Customers are anxious to return as well.

      Richard Stark, a volunteer at St. Stanislaus Convent Resale Shop in Michigan City, said customer traffic has been “very good.” He said business has pretty much picked up where things left off prior to the pandemic.

      Iorio stated that business at Winfield has also been fairly good since the reopening.

      Resale/thrift shops have taken precautions to help protect staff and customers from the coronavirus.

      Stark said volunteers and customers are required to wear masks. St. Mary Thrift Shop and The Saint Paul Clothing Center are also requiring face masks. Iorio said staff members are wearing masks and gloves. They also have masks available for customers. “We’re not requiring people to wear masks, but masks, gloves and hand sanitizer are available,” she said.

      Restrooms are off limits to the public as a precaution at the stores.

      Surfaces, especially high-traffic areas, are wiped with disinfecting wipes throughout the day.

      Social distancing is stressed as well. St. Mary’s has a seven-customer-per-room limit.

      St Paul’s is open by appointment. Every client will be able to shop by appointment by calling 462-0074. Shopping time will be a half hour per client, limited to one person per household. For the safety and wellness of everyone, children cannot enter the building.

      While St. Stanislaus and Winfield shops are still accepting donated items, St Paul’s is not due to their limited capacity.

      Iorio said the Winfield shop is “really overstocked now.” She said people continued to donate items during the pandemic, guessing that with most people home due to the stay-at-home order, many were busy cleaning out their closets.

      Iorio added, “Our real purpose is to be there for people who need us.” She said the shop utilizes a voucher program. Anyone in need of need of women’s or children’s clothing who cannot afford to pay can contact one of the four partner churches or the Winfield trustee for a voucher that can be used for clothing. Iorio talked about a lady who lost everything in a house fire during the pandemic. The Winfield shop was able to help by giving her more than the normal voucher value.

      St. Stanislaus is open Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Winfield Resale Shoppe hours are Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., while St. Mary hours are Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

      Stark is one of roughly seven volunteers who help out at the St. Stanislaus store. The 93-year-old World War II veteran said he has been volunteering for 15 years in memory of his late wife. He said volunteering “gives me something to do in my older age.”

      As far as the pandemic, Stark said he has never experienced anything like this and “at my age, I’m extra careful.”

      While everyone was disappointed when the shop closed, Iorio said of the Winfield store, “because we serve people who need us, we were realistic that it needed to happen.”

      She tries to see something positive in the pandemic. “If there is any good that has come from this, I think it’s made people kinder and gentler,” she said.

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