ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
It was only the first week in November, but the volunteer elves at The Et Cetera Shop in Hillsboro were putting out Christmas items in preparation for the holiday shopping crowd.
“Some of our items that come in are new or practically new,” said Bonnie Funk, treasurer of The Et Cetera Shop Board. “People buy them for gifts for Christmas.”
Funk and fellow board member Paul Suderman, chairman, share a commitment to the non-profit shop selling donated items at affordable prices and supporting Mennonite Central Committee, an inter-Mennonite relief and development organization.
“Through our giving to MCC, the message of God’s love extends around the world-giving hope and light to many people,” Funk said.
Suderman agreed and said, “The various Mennonite people that are involved in it, these form one relief organization, which gives service and distribution to many, many areas over the world.”
Regardless of what time of the year it is, after operating expenses are paid, the proceeds from the shop are sent to MCC’s regional office in North Newton. As treasurer, Funk said the Hillsboro store was able to pass on $25,584 over the past 12 months.
“So we were really impressed that in this little store, the 25-cent and $1 items can really mount up,” Funk said.
The local Et Cetera Shop is one of many throughout the country, including two stores closer to home-one in Newton and one in Hutchinson.
The Hillsboro store celebrates 26 years since it was established with the encouragement of Kaethe Warkentin of Hillsboro.
“She saw a lot of poverty,” Funk said. “She wanted to help poor people.”
But the shop is not solely structured for those who are financially challenged. It holds an abundance and variety of clothing and products for others as well.
“It’s open to anybody in the community who wants to come in,” Funk said. “But we’ve always told our managers, ‘If somebody comes in, and they are destitute, and they cannot pay for anything-give it to them.’ Local (assistance) is our mission, too. It doesn’t have to go overseas or to war-torn countries. We feel it’s important to help our local people, too.”
The current seven-member board includes Funk, Suderman, secretary Helen McMinn, vice-chairman Wilbur Hanneman, Elgin Bartel, Lauren Enns and Warren Dalke.
The members represent the following congregations: Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren, Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethren, Parkview Mennonite Brethren, First Mennonite and Trinity Mennonite, all of Hillsboro; and Good New Christian Fellowship Church of Marion.
Members’ terms are open ended.
“It’s until we don’t care to serve anymore or we become incapable,” Funk said. “Then the member church that we represent replaces us. We’ve never had any trouble getting anybody to serve on the board. I think people realize the value of it.”
Two managers, Joyce Hanneman and JoAnn Heinrichs, receive small paychecks, Funk said. But the remaining staff consists of volunteers.
“Volunteers are here every day that the store is open,” Funk said. “On Mondays, a large group comes, and they sort and price clothes. Otherwise, the other volunteers help customers and run the cash register.”
Donations are accepted any day of the week the store is open. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday.
“Every day the managers do everything but the clothes,” Funk said. “They do all the other things on a daily basis.”
Those managerial duties include taking in donations, washing clothing, displaying it and either discarding items that aren’t acceptable for the retail floor, or sending some of those items to other worthy outlets.
About once every three weeks, a pickup load of unused items is taken to the Salvation Army in Newton and sometimes Wichita-a task shared on a rotating basis by board members Suderman, Hanneman and Bartel.
Like most retail stores, the Christmas holiday is one of the busiest times of the year at the Et Cetera Shop.
Glancing around the store during November and December, shoppers will find Christmas decorations, baskets, Christmas lights and myriad gift ideas that suit their imagination and pocket books.
“We always say, ‘Someone’s junk is another person’s treasure,'” Funk said. “So they were finished with it for whatever reason, but someone else finds it and buys it.”
Those looking to donate appropriate items during the holidays might take a moment to check their attic or storage room for an artificial Christmas tree no longer needed.
“Christmas trees sell,” Funk said about popular items during November and December. “They’re almost gone immediately. If you’re looking for a decent tree-it’s gone.”
Although the shop has promotions throughout the year, smart shoppers during the holidays might watch for a half-price sale that continues for a full week.
“We also have a promotion-fill a whole grocery bag for $5-everything you can get in that sack,” Funk said. “Whatever’s in the store, you can fill that bag.”
Another popular holiday activity at The Et Cetera Shop is a MCC fund-raising bake sale.
“Every church takes its turn sponsoring it,” Funk said. “They bring in the baked goods, and it sells very well. The downtown merchants really enjoy that-taking some home and (buying) some for coffee breaks.”
Christmas lights will find their way along the windows to add a twinkling touch to the season, and some of the artificial trees for sale will be festively decorated.
“Sometimes people will buy the decorated tree just like it is,” Funk said.
Suderman has been on the board for two years, and Funk has served for about seven years.
“This is where I donate my time to do the bookkeeping and the treasurer’s work,” Funk said. “It’s my way to contribute to MCC and (fight) the poverty in the world. I can’t go over there, but this gives me an opportunity to do service, and I feel that’s important.”
Suderman’s history with MCC goes back more than 50 years, when he met wife Elda. In the late ’40s, after the war ended, he went to Germany with MCC to help with reconstruction and distribution work. While there, he met a young girl from California.
“That started our relationship,” Suderman said. “Later on, we got married and had four children. Three of them have been working with MCC for a good many years. So that’s been our connection as a family.”
“I think it’s fun to come here and shop-to see what you can find,” Funk said as the holiday approached. “We want people to come in and buy, because their money goes to MCC to help others.”