By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
DUNKIRK — Tucked away in one of the older buildings on Dunkirk‘s Main Street is a thrift shop.
Racks full of clothes, shelves lined with books and a closet stuffed with toys await shoppers at Seekers Find Thrift Store, located in the Hardin Northern Community Center just a stone’s throw from the railroad tracks.
“We have something for everybody,” said Linda Gibson, the Dunkirk woman who manages the store with the help of her younger sister, Carol McElroy.
Gibson said the prices can’t be beat. A plastic grocery bag full of clothing, for instance, sells for just $3.
“It’s a whole lot cheaper here than going to Goodwill,” said Gibson. “People bring in donations from household items to shoes to books to kids’ clothes to adult clothes. So we have just about everything you need.”
Gibson has lived in the Hardin County village for 37 years. A retired cafeteria manager at nearby Hardin Northern School, she and her sister both serve on a nine-person board that oversees activities at the community center.
The building that houses the center and thrift store was formerly Price Funeral Home. About 10 years ago, Gibson said the owner decided to shut down the Dunkirk location while maintaining funeral homes in Kenton and Mount Victory. The thrift store opened soon after.
Seekers Find is open from 1-3:30 p.m. the first three Thursdays of each month for shopping and to accept donations.
“We sell things for $3 a bag, a plastic grocery bag, but you can get quite a little bit in one of these,” said Gibson. “Otherwise it’s $1 an item, clothingwise.”
And while apparel comprises most of the merchandise, the thrift store also offers an assortment of odds and ends. On a recent Thursday afternoon, there were picture frames, jewelry boxes, a glass punch bowl set, Christmas items, cookbooks, baskets and puzzles.
“We don’t get too many pots and pans,” said Gibson. “We did have some curtains and they just went out. Sheets go out. Our shoes are only 50 cents a pair and our clothes are just as good as Goodwill’s or anyplace else.”
The women said shoppers come from all around the area.
“If there’s people stopping through, they’ll notice and then they stop, just like if you were going to a garage sale or something,” Gibson said.
Proceeds go into the general fund which pays the electric and heat bills. Gibson said an anonymous donor handles the center’s water bill.
When clothing donations come in, the store’s two main volunteers — Brenda Comstock and Kathy Hough — sort through the bags, hanging items on hangers and placing them in the appropriate areas.
It takes time to go through everything, said Gibson. And periodically it moves older stock along to other thrift stores.
“When we get too full, I’m sorry, we have to sort of move it along,” said Comstock. “So we go through and we sort and keep praying that somebody will come in and take some of our stuff. We say, ‘please, please, please, isn’t there something you just can’t live without?'”
The list of items not accepted includes bras, underwear and swimsuits. However, adult diapers are taken as long as they’re still sealed in the package. Any items that are stained or smell of cigarette smoke go straight into the Dumpster.
“We want good, clean, seasonal items,” said Gibson.
They also help people in need.
“We had a fire (in town) and they (the family) came in and we gave it to them,” said Comstock. “We didn’t charge anything.”
“Anybody that is really in need, they can come and we let them go through and let them have anything that they want,” added Gibson.
They also helped a man who didn’t have a warm place to stay this winter. But they don’t typically seek publicity for their acts of kindness, said Gibson: “We know that we do good, and that’s the main thing.”
The center hosts a free community meal from 5-7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month.
Donations are accepted to benefit the general fund, but no one is turned away. Bingo is played from 1:30-3:30 p.m. Tuesdays, and Bunco is offered in the evening.
“We ask a $5 donation. We also ask for donations to play bingo, but they don’t have to pay anything,” said Gibson.
Any of those donations go into a fund to replace the roof.
It’s very active center, said Gibson, adding that “coffee club” is held on Monday mornings.
“I think the building’s (former) owner is happy with the results,” she said. “He wanted it to get used and not have to tear it down and go by the wayside.”
In addition to their work at the community center, the sisters are active on Dunkirk’s Community Improvement Corp. and help with vacation Bible school. Gibson sits on village council and sings in the community choir.
“Wherever they need us, that’s what we do,” said McElroy.
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