Local charity thrift stores are joining other area businesses emerging from the COVID-19 lockdown and reopening their doors to the public and accepting donations. Proceeds from charity thrift stores in the community benefit a variety of charitable groups, from veterans, to children. Now that the state is beginning to reopen, thrift store staffs are looking forward to getting back to work and making a difference in the community. While some stores already have reopened, including Restoring Hope and St. Theresa Catholic Church Thrift Store, there are some, like Shepherd’s Lighthouse and Ye Olde Thrift Shoppe, who are preparing to reopen soon. “We have a lot of volunteers from The Villages who are looking forward to getting back into the groove and give back to the community,” said David Booth, CEO of Restoring Hope.
Staff are working hard to make sure the stores are safe for them and their customers.
Restoring Hope in Wildwood reopened May 4.
Since then, the number of donations to Restoring Hope, which benefits combat veterans, has increased. Right now, there’s an average of seven to 15 pickups on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, according to Booth.
“It is neat to see things changing every day within the store as new items are offered and more Villages residents want to help,” he said.
Goodwill in Oxford and Hospice of Marion County in Summerfield also are open. St. Theresa Catholic Church Thrift Store in Belleview opened Monday and had a busy first day back.
The thrift store benefits the church it’s affiliated with, helping to fund the church’s ministries.
“Many look to us when it comes to things they need,” said Michael Syvelster, thrift shop manager. “We are all thankful to be back at work and finding what others need so we can benefit them better.”
While St. Theresa is returning to their normal business hours of 9 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., they will remain closed on Saturdays until further notice.
Both Restoring Hope and St. Theresa Catholic Church Thrift Store are taking precautions to keep customers and staff safe.
“We have a cleansing routine and are following safety precautions that include following social distancing,” Syvelster said.
At Restoring Hope, the store is making sure all donated items are sanitized, Booth said.
“It is a practice we were doing before the virus and it is a practice we plan to continue,” he said. “We have masks available and we make sure everything is wiped down while maintaining social distancing.”
As other stores prepare to reopen, they also are taking precautions.
Building one of Ye Olde Thrift Shoppe, which benefits UF Health The Villages Hospital Auxiliary Foundation, plans to reopen Tuesday. It’s currently accepting donations, said Lou Emmert, volunteer coordinator of the foundation.
Building one “is the building with all clothing, shoes and accessories, as we have found that is one of the biggest current needs,” Emmert said.
When the store reopens, it will follow safety guidelines issued by the state, said Emmert, of the Village of Belle Aire. The store will have a 25% shopper capacity and customers will be encouraged to wear a mask and maintain 6 feet of personal space for social distancing at all times.
“For the safety of our volunteers, we have installed Plexiglas shields around the cashier and all volunteers will be wearing masks,” Emmert said. “They have been working to get everything ready to reopen and I think when we do, we will all be comfortable because safety is such a big requirement.”
While the store is not yet open to the public, they are accepting donations.
“The biggest need we have right now is clothing and linens,” Emmert said. “We want to make sure we are able to provide others with all the needs they have.”
Case manager Theresa Chambers of Shepherd’s Lighthouse in Belleview, which helps provide funding for a variety of services including transitional housing, said the organization is making sure it has enough personal protective equipment for the staff.
“We are hoping to reopen by the end of the month, if not sooner,” she said. “We are still taking in donations as we prepare because there is such a great need, but we ask that people call first to schedule a drop-off so we can make sure we have staff available to accept the donations.”
Other local charity thrift stores also are preparing to reopen.
Bargains & Blessings in Wildwood is not accepting donations or public shoppers until Tuesday. When they reopen, they will be open at 25% capacity and ask that shoppers respect proper social distancing.
Centsible Furnishings in Summerfield, a partner of Love In the Name of Christ, or Love INC, of the Heart of Florida, is open for online shopping and drive-thru donations.
Our Mother’s Attic in Wildwood, also looks forward to reopening and welcoming back shoppers on May 21. Staff will be wearing masks and encouraging others to do the same, as well as practicing safe social distancing, said manager Michael Leahy.