Et Cetera Shop marks 40 years of sharing

The team of volunteers at the Et Cetera Shop in Hillsboro enjoy a coffee break from sorting and pricing used clothing. Last year the shop generated more than $55,000 for the work of Mennonite Central and donated about $6,000 to local ministries and programs. The volunteers agree that comradery keeps them coming back year after year.The Et Cetera Shop in Hillsboro may specialize in selling used clothing, household goods and other items, but the store’s true impact is resourcing and renewing the lives of people as it celebrates 40 years in business this week.

The Hillsboro store, one of more than 100 stores that function across the U.S. and Canada, was launched as a way to support the worldwide ministry of Mennonite Central Com­mittee in the areas of relief, development, and peace and justice.

But the local store benefits the local community, too.

Angie Becker, store manager for about two years now, said the store’s business goals have remained consistent.

“What we try to do is to provide things that are clean, a friendly atmosphere, and a place where it’s shopper friendly—we try to keep it organized,” Becker said.

“I like the fact that given how Hillsboro right now is without a store like Alco, we can provide a lot of the different kinds of things that people might need—and then they don’t have to go out of town if they don’t want to.”

A vision to help

The vision for starting an Et Cetera Shop in Hillsboro came from Kaethe Warken­tin, who wanted to give back to the organization that helped her and her family survive World War II.

“She started the place because apparently one of the MCC food distribution centers was in the area where she was as child in the Ukraine,” Becker said. “They helped feed her. Then in Germany, after World War II, it was the same thing all over again.

“Starting this shop was her way to give back to the place that literally fed her when she was hungry.”

Local dimension

Store guidelines state that 90 percent of earnings must go to support MCC ministries today. Stores are allowed to donate up to 10 percent of their proceeds for local impact.

Becker said the band of thrift shops in North America donated $16 million to MCC this past year, which is one of ever four dollars MCC receives.

“When people shop here, they’re doing something for the world, but they’re also doing something local,” Becker said. “That’s something I really appreciate about our board of directors.”

Becker said the local store donates quarterly to Main Street Ministries, but has also contributed to the Marion County Toy Run, Circles of Marion County and the Food for Kids summer program sponsored by Trinity Mennonite Church.

Corps of volunteers

Last but certainly not least, the store gives back to the volunteers and staff who keep it running from week to week.

“We all get along so well,” said Bonnie Funk, now in her 18th year as the store’s volunteer treasurer.

Every Monday and Wed­nesday morning, a team of mostly senior volunteers gather to sort donated clothing. During coffee breaks, the agenda turns from sorting clothing to encouraging each other.

“We always jokingly say this is our therapy, and it’s a lot cheaper than going to a shrink,” Funk said with a laugh. “We really do have fun here, but we’re also doing a lot of good—both for MCC and the community.”

Some store volunteers have been at it for more than 20 and even 30 years. Most say they keep coming back because of the friendships they build with each other and the satisfying feeling they have about giving back to the community.

Helen Schmidt, at age 93, is one of them.

“I’ve worked here for over 20 years,” she said. “I used to work the cash register, but now I am sorting and pricing (clothing). I like the company (of fellow volunteers), and I like to work with people.”

Becker said the store is a win-win situation for the people who contribute to it, for the people who buy affordable items and for the many volunteers who work behind the scenes.

“It’s interesting,” Becker said. “And it’s never dull, as far as what comes in the back door. People here are really generous about bringing things to us. We get lots of really nice things. We’ve got a lot of nice clothes as well as appliances—just all kinds of household stuff.

“We try to provide a reasonable price while still helping MCC with their mission.”

Celebration event

The Et Cetera Shop will celebrating its 40th anniversary from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday in partnership with the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce office across the street.

The Chamber will be providing free hot dogs and the Et Cetera Shop will be issuing coupons for a 40 percent discount on one item in the store.

“We want people to know we appreciate our volunteers, we appreciate the people who donate, we appreciate the people who come and buy—and we’re always looking for people to help with our volunteer tasks,” Becker said.

The store’s weekly hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.

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