(Story originally appeared November 14th, 2018)
By: Timorthy Kays
While passing through the south side of Archbold, you may have noticed that business at the southwest corner of South Defiance Street and Lugbill Road. That business is the Care and Share Thrift Stores and Ten Thousand Villages. Because it is a part of the title, there are those who would take the term ‘thrift store’ literally.
They would also be short changing the Care and Share / Ten Thousand Villages business complex, as they are to the ‘thrift store’ as the Cadillac is to the automobile. There is truly nothing even remotely close to Care and Share / Ten Thousand Villages anywhere in Northwest Ohio.
“Care and Share is a nonprofit organization that supports the work of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC),” said General Manager Kathy Nofziger. “MCC was formed in July of 1920, and at that time pledged to aid hungry people and send blankets to persons in Russia and Ukraine. So in 2020, they’ll be celebrating their century of service. MCC is a global, nonprofit organization that strives to share God’s love and compassion for all through relief, development and peace.
Their mission statement is, ‘MCC as a worldwide ministry of Anabaptist churches that shares God’s love and compassion for all in the name of Christ by responding to basic human needs, and working for peace and justice. MCC envisions communities worldwide in right relationships with God, one another, and creation.’”
“MCC’s primary focus and purpose,” continued Kathy, “…are in the areas of disaster relief, sustainability, community development, justice and peace building. In 2018, we are working in 57 countries, partnered with 508 organizations, and working on 716 projects. If you’re wondering about projects in the United States…we accompany people to court hearings, immigration, prisoner reentry programs, peace building, education, abuse prevention and SWAP.”
“SWAP stands for Serving With Appalachian People, which I personally have been involved with. I’ve taken youth groups down to Kentucky to work for a week; I remember leaving there feeling like the people in Kentucky have done a lot more for me than I ever did for them in that week. It really made an impact on my life, and I know it made an impact on the lives of our youth.”
The history of Care and Share is one where divine providence met human needs. As Kathy explained, “The MCC thrift shop derived out of from MCC, and the thrift network began in 1972 by four women in Canada. They had the vision to find creative ways to use extra clothing and household items that could be donated.”
“They opened their very first thrift shop in Altoona, Manitoba, with the expectation that the project might last just three to six months and the income generated from their sales would be sent to MCC.”
“This was really the grassroots of the MCC thrift shops in the United States. We have three in the United States, we being the third. The first one was in Kansas, the second one is in Bluffton, Ohio, and ours is in Archbold, Ohio. We started with volunteers…no paid staff. The business has grown to the point that today, there are now some paid positions in our thrift stores, and our stores in the United States and Canada number over 100 at this time. Our story is really similar to what happened in Canada.”
The local involvement dates back over four decades. “In 1975,” Kathy recounted, “…we had two ladies from Archbold that got together to talk about a dream that they had of starting an MCC thrift store and self help crafts here in Archbold. It was Louise Stamm and Ada Short. They knew about this thrift store that was in Bluffton, and they wanted to check into it, so they each asked two other women to join them in this adventure.”
“Marilyn Yoder was one of them; she was also a volunteer here. Helen Holsopple, Violet Rupp and Jane Short, along with Louise and Ada, traveled to Bluffton in February of 1975 to visit this shop called the Et Cetera Shop, which was the first MCC thrift store in Ohio.” The fuse was lit.
“On the way back,” Kathy continued, “…it was pretty much obvious that they were really excited about this. They already were making plans on what needed to be done to get started. The first thing they did was they got some ladies around and met at the West Clinton Church with about 30 persons from other congregations, intending to discuss the feasibility of a site to sell self help crafts, household items and clothing items in the Archbold area.
They soon appointed a board of 14 members to oversee this project. It took more than a year of planning, and they found a building at 1207 South Defiance Street that belonged to Melba Schmucker. It was Mr. G’s pizza at that time. It was available for purchase, so the funds to purchase the building came from seven Mennonite churches in the area, and also many individuals.
On May 3, 1976, the doors opened, and it was named The Care and Share Center. Besides the US goods, they also had these self-help crafts that now are known as Ten Thousand Villages. It is a nonprofit organization with proceeds from the sales of donated household and clothing items and self help crafts being sent to MCC for relief work around the world.
Ada and Louise were co-managers at that time. Arva Beck, who still volunteers here, and Helen Holsopple priced the used items, and Neva Beck, another volunteer again, and Marilyn Yoder purchased and displayed the self-help crafts.”
“What’s unique about Marilyn is when you talked to her, she said when she would receive those self-help crafts from other countries and unpackaged them, it felt like it was coming from the artisans hands directly into her hands. She felt that connection.”
“She could just feel that she was helping those people, thousands and thousands of miles on the other side of the world. Our first day of sales that day on May 3, 1976, was $7.27. I did find a newsletter from ‘86 that was sent to area churches. The article stated that the store had really caught on, and was not just a crazy idea.”
The first ten years was in the books, and the businesses began to experience growing pains. A new phase was coming in. Kathy explained, “Two years later, the business had outgrown the building that they were in, and needed in larger one.”
“So in 1979, we made a move just down the street to where the Fish Food Pantry now is. We had more room; there was more availability to have more clothing and household items. It was actually the start of recycling materials that didn’t sell, and making them into useful articles. Sometimes a tee shirt comes in, or a bath towel or jeans that might be torn.”
“Jeans can be made into rag rugs that are woven. We try to reuse everything; cotton tee shirts, terry cloth that’s 100 percent cotton…we’d cut them up and sell boxes of rags to different businesses and individuals.”
“We had volunteers that would come on Tuesdays to work in the back room on these projects, and they started calling themselves the Tatter Club. As their group grew, elbow room became really tight and so these ladies got together and decided where they were going to go.
They would take these used pieces of material, and make comforters out of them, or pillows, or whatever they could dream of to do. Most of them were farm girls. They decided that they needed a shed. A shed would work, so they put a shed on that property.
That was a good idea until they outgrew that, and they found a place later that a church gave them…a house that they weren’t using where they could meet. They met in there until 1987 when we purchased the building at 1201 South Defiance Street.
Renovations were made, and we now had 11,000 square feet, which we were really excited about. The Tatter Club could come and meet every Tuesday upstairs, and they could continue working and quilting and weaving rugs, knotting comforters, making quilts. It just felt really good to have everybody in one location, and they weren’t cramped anymore.
The other good thing was they had more room to take in more donations; they wouldn’t be so cramped for space that way. Also, Self-Help Crafts could now be displayed much nicer, and kind of in their own area.”
“We also collect material aid like school kits, sewing kits, relief kits, hygiene kits and comforters, and we could store them until we could send them out to MCC and Goshen. We were able to do that instead of renting out a building in Pettisville to store that material. It felt really good.”
“Two years later in ‘89,” Kathy continued. “…that building was paid off and we were able to send more money to MCC. Then in 1996, Self-Help Crafts celebrated their 50th anniversary, and it was renamed Ten Thousand Villages which is the name that we use today.”
“The name reflects the authentic creations made from the heart of villages around the world. Then in 2010, the Quality Graphics building came up for auction on Lugbill Street, and the board purchased it. In 2011, after their renovations were completed, we opened the clothing store. The back room is where we take in all the donations. They’re separated into clothing, housewares, games, toys, shoes, all these separate areas, and then we have other volunteers that come in and they process them, price them, and get them out onto our floor.”
“By having this building, we were able to expand Ten Thousand Villages so that they would have their own separate store and weren’t inside a thrift store any longer. Also with this change, a nice addition was we were able to have more room to sell furniture. We could take donations of nice, good quality furniture, get it on the floor, and sell it there in the home store. All this happened over 40 year time period.”
The business model of Care and Share incorporates a simple theory of keeping stock rotating in by moving older stock out. “We have a four-week color rotation,” Kathy said. “For the first three weeks, an item in our stores would be regular price.”
“The first three days of the fourth week they go half off, and then Thursday and Friday they’re a dollar and Saturday they’re a quarter. We have both men and women working here together, even in the Tatter Club. We have men cutting jeans into strips of material.”
“Some sew them together so they can be woven into rugs. Women are quilting, knotting comforters and sewing bags for school kits. This is done through the Tatter Club, and it’s all done with donated fabric and clothing.”
While successes are found in every corner of the businesses, Kathy credits them all to the small army of volunteers who call the southwest corner of South Defiance Street and Lugbill Road their second home.
“Rachel Sauder is the Home Store manager, Pat King is the Furniture Coordinator, and I manage the Clothing Store and the receiving and processing areas in my building,” Kathy said. “The three of us will tell you we have the best volunteers here. We have over 230 wonderful, great volunteers.”
“They are very special to us; we are blessed! We couldn’t do this without them. We have a large supporting network here, and they’re not all from the Mennonite Church. We have people from all denominations that volunteer here. They’re just the best, and we’re like friends and family here; we really do have special relationships with them.”
“These men and women are from churches and communities here, and outside the area. They’re here countless hours; they’re really dedicated and committed. They come day after day; some are here every day. Some have been here for 42 years…as long as we have been here.”
“We have volunteers that have been here that long, but what’s so important is they’re making a difference in the lives of people in our community, and around the world. That’s the cool part. They are the face of MCC, the face of the Mennonite Central Committee.
When our volunteers enter our doors here at Care and Share and Ten Thousand Villages, they’ve really entered the mission field because we’re a small part of MCC. But what they do and contribute reaches people around the world, and also in our community. They support Care and Share. They support Ten Thousand Villages and our mission; they keep our stores running smoothly.”
The volunteer experience at Care and Share and Ten Thousand Villages is unlike anything else. Kathy explained, “We try to provide the best in cleanest merchandise available at reasonable prices.”
“We want to provide a meaningful experience of volunteering for them. Some of our volunteers work from their homes. Some sort and price buttons from their homes. They do greeting cards; they take jewelry home, sort it and package it. They do all this and get it prepared to bring to the store so we can sell it here.”
“We have women in their late nineties that crochet hats and bring us baked goods a couple times a month for our snack around our table in the back when we have break. They make comforters at home for MCC and bring them in. We have young mothers and fathers that volunteer here; it really touches my heart that bring their children.”
There’s a number of things that they do with their children. One mother works at receiving in the back, and her daughter comes along and always wants to answer the door.”
“It’s heartwarming that they’re teaching and showing them the value of service for others. That’s what’s so cool. That gives me hope for the future when you have them starting like that, that these parents care so much to teach their children.”
We also have local projects, and MCC encourages us to give a certain percentage of our proceeds not just to local organizations that we support, but to other local projects.”
“Sometimes CCNO might ask us to collect clothing and shoes at different times of the year for men and women to give their clients as they’re leaving and go to their homes and enter the workforce. We also collect lightweight, long sleeve colored men’s shirts for the migrants coming to work when they have a meeting.”
“In the past 42 years, our thrift stores, not including Ten Thousand Villages, have given $3,586,000 to MCC. This does not include donations that we have given out in our local community each year. We cannot do this without our volunteers, our donors and our customers.”
Care and Share is always seeking donations of good quality items for their home, furniture and clothing stores, but there is a major project on the horizon where they will be in need of financial donations to boot.
“Our board just approved the purchase of awnings that will start at Ten Thousand Villages, wrap around the home store to the end of the building, jump the alley, and then finish with an awning across the clothing store,” Kathy said.
“That’s a very large investment; it’ll also cut into what we can give to Mennonite Central Committee because we will be paying for that with proceeds from our sales that we generally use to support MCC and our local organizations. So we’re looking for donations for that because the sooner we get that paid for, the sooner we can continue giving, sending money to MCC, and supporting our other local organizations.”
“It’ll be nice to be able to walk from Ten Thousand Villages to the Home Store, to the Clothing Store in inclement weather. So we’re going to do Giving Tuesday which is coming up on November 27.”
What is this Ten Thousand Villages and self-help crafts thing in relation to Care and Share? Yes, they all work under the same MCC banner, but the items found inside Ten Thousand Villages are all new, and come from the four corners of the planet.
You may have been under the misconception that purchasing clothing and gift items of this nature would require a road trip to Fort Wayne, Toledo or maybe even Detroit. The long trip and gasoline expenses are negated by a simple jaunt down the road to Archbold, where the business model, like Care and Share, is built around service.
“We work with artisans in over 30 different developing nations, and they are all paid,” said Ten Thousand Villages Manager Elizabeth Baer. “There’s an initial conversation that we have with them to decide what is a fair wage to them – what they would need – because it really varies. Each country that you’re in…that can vary greatly.”
“These are people that we partner with long term, some for 30 years. We’ve been doing this since 1946. The reason we stick with them long term is because we want them to be able to rely on that income year after year to sustain them, and so they can make plans and improve their living conditions.”
“What fair trade does is it also enables them to help others to hire people that need to be hired, to start clinics in their community, and different ways that they can help out. We pay them fifty percent of their wages up front, so that covers their cost of goods if they have to get materials. We don’t want them to ever have to take out a loan or go into debt to do business with us.”
“They’re paid half up front right away before they even start working, and then when the product is finished, as it ships out there, they are paid the remainder. So they’re actually paid forward; nothing is sent back to them.”
“We pay them in full ahead of time, which helps them to rely on that income. It is paid promptly. It’s on time because a lot of times in normal business it’s not like that. They could wait a long time, or sometimes they might never get paid.” That’s another perk of fair trade; they’re paid up front so they never are waiting on our timeline. They’re paid when they need it.”
“Everything in our store is fair trade,” Elizabeth continued. “Every single thing is fair trade; every single thing is made by hand. Everything in our store has a printable story…a little gift card that tells you about the materials that were used, who made it, and about how it helped them.”
“Also how long ago that artisan group has been formed, and different side projects that have come from their work, like they’ve opened eye clinics or care for children after school.” Together with Care and Share, Ten Thousand Villages provides a unique experience that cannot be found anywhere but South Defiance Street in Archbold.
“Have you ever been cold and could not find warmth in a blanket or comforter,” Kathy said. “Did you wonder where your next meal would come from, let alone clean drinking water? Have you looked in your closet and nothing was there for you to wear? Has your home been destroyed by disaster? Have you recently had to leave your home or flee your country for your life?”
“There are millions of children and adults in the world that face these issues every day. Care and Share is playing a very small but important part in their story, and in the story of the Mennonite Central Committee.”
To find out more about Care and Share, Ten Thousand Villages, or the opportunities to volunteer or donate, stop by the store at 1201 South Defiance Street, or give Kathy a call at 419-445-1926.
Timothy can be reached at email@example.com