Through the merchandising and sale of donated items in all varieties, the Haywood Christian Ministry Thrift Store generates a major source of income to fund the charitable operation of HCM, which provides food, clothing, medical and dental services, and counseling services to its clients. 

The thrift store has been managed by Betty Francis since June 2016. 

Betty worked with Belks in store management for 23 years. After her retirement from full-time service, she decided she wanted to go back to work. A friend from Panther Creek Baptist Church told her about the available position as store manager at Haywood Christian Ministry’s Thrift store. She applied for the position, was hired and has loved her five-plus years at the thrift store. 

Betty recalls a touching experience on her first day at work. She parked her car in the parking deck across from the thrift store. “As I walked across Branner Avenue that morning, the sun was shining, and the birds were singing, and I looked up and said, ‘God this is where I am supposed to be.’ I felt it in my heart,” she said. 

There have been changes in the thrift store business over the years. Betty recalls visiting the ministry’s old thrift store, located at 1374 Sulfur Springs Road. “There were a lot of items on the floor. It was not a high-quality retail experience, but later, after the ministry opened this thrift store on Branner, I came in and just loved the shopping experience. I fell in love with this place,” she said.

During Betty’s tenure, HCM acquired an additional property next door at 124 Branner Ave. This building was converted to office space for the processing of new clients and for additional ministerial functions. This purchase allowed the thrift store to greatly expand its shopping areas on the upper level of its 150 Branner Ave. building. 

Betty’s role as store manager is to run the overall thrift store in a manner that will create a maximum of profit for the work of the ministry.

“When I first started here, our sales goal was $600 to $700 per day. I just thought that was just not good enough. Now I tell the staff, ‘Let’s shoot for $1,000 per day.’ If the staff has a specific goal, they work harder each day in creating more sales. Plus, it is very motivating to know that your work efforts go toward helping others.”

There was an experience from this past March that really touched Betty and her former co-worker Nancy Gatling. 

“Nancy and I were preparing to open the store. It was a cold and icy morning. I looked out the front window and saw a young lady standing there without any shoes on. I went outside and asked her how she was doing, and she said that she was doing okay but she was homeless. I invited her into the store where it was warm, and she came in. I spoke to my co-worker and said, ‘Nancy, she needs help. You and I can buy her a pair of shoes and a coat to help her out. About that time, Steve (Nowakowski), the store manager, came in and I told him that I would have to get back with him because we were helping that young lady. Steve told me to send her across the street to our ministry’s office and we would get her processed in the system and get her some clothes. We help people here, and this is what I like about this place.”

Rebounding from COVID-19

The thrift store was closed from the middle of March 2020 until September 2020 due to COVID-19. Of course, this put an additional financial strain on the ministry. As noted in the previous article, the food distribution division continued its excellent operation and lines of cars could be seen picking up food that sustained many during the height of the pandemic.

“We were so happy to be able to reopen the store last September,” Betty said. “Our customers were happy because shopping here is like therapy for them. Working here is therapy for our sweet volunteers, but we didn’t have any volunteers when we opened back up. Nancy and I had to handle everything at first.”

Volunteers were approved to start back helping in the store this April. Currently there are five volunteers in the retail store. The store would love to pick-up additional volunteers, and a person could start for as little as two hours per week. According to Betty, the store has a covered dish meal for all of it volunteers once per week, and this really helps with unity among the helpers.

Something for everybody

Both new and used items are donated to the Haywood Christian Ministry Thrift Store.

“I think the quality of the items in our store is what makes us special,” Betty says. “There are probably only a couple of thrift stores in our area that maintain the quality of items that we do. I get brand new items from area stores, but I don’t sell them at a new price. I take 75% off those items.”

There is a large sorting area downstairs, so the store’s inventory is neatly displayed in the shopping areas upstairs.

The thrift store has a nice selection of household items. Betty says she gets beautiful china and sells it at a great price. She also gets broken patterns, which are priced around $1.50 per plate.

“Our book room is unreal. We have a special volunteer — Andy Bartleson — who does a great job,” Betty said. “He is devoted to our books and also helps at the library. We sell a lot of books.”

Furniture is a big seller, according to Betty. “If we sell two items of furniture per day, we are doing well, but we don’t overprice it. If a furniture item has not sold in a week, I will take the price down each week until it sells,” she said.

Every Tuesday is “Super Tuesday,” with an additional 25% taken off items purchased that day.

“Our men’s department is fantastic. We get name brands on shirts, pants and shoes. Of course, lady’s wear is always fantastic. We also have an arts and crafts area, an office-needs area, and artwork.”

The Haywood Christian Ministry Thrift Store is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Its phone number is 828-452-2909.

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