A year ago, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Livingston closed its doors. But several members of the church were determined to continue the ministry of their Thrift Shop, which had been serving the community since 1955. Through a partnership with the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit here in Verona, the Thrift Shop has not only continued to operate, but has provided more than $100,000 to local charitable organizations in the past year. The idea for the partnership began when several former members of St. Peter’s began attending Holy Spirit, looking for both a place to worship and a way to continue the Thrift Shop ministry. The partnership was formalized in November 2021.
“A committee of Holy Spirit members, some of whom were formerly from St. Peter’s, come together periodically to decide how to distribute the proceeds,” says Father Jerry Racioppi, Holy Spirit’s Rector. “In 12 months, we supported over 35 organizations that help people who have food insecurity, at-risk youth, people who struggle with physical disabilities or mental health issues, suicide prevention, and other critical needs.”
The list of organizations includes the Holy Spirit Food Pantry, Christine’s Kitchen West Orange, and the Livingston-based food pantry CHOW (also known as Livingston Neighbors Helping Neighbors). In 2022, funds from the Thrift Shop supported the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out-of-the-Darkness Walk in Verona Park with a $5,000 Community Partner sponsorship. Local fire departments, rescue squads, and police departments have been recipients. Two scholarships at Verona High School and Livingston High School have been created to recognize seniors who have been active volunteers during their high school careers. Donations have been made to Verona-based organizations such as Verona C.H.I.L.D. and Verona Children’s Fund, as well as non-profits that serve people in our community, such as the RAIN Foundation (a nonprofit that works with LGBTQ+ youth), Second Floor, the New Jersey Chapter of the National Federation for the Blind, Rosemarie’s Rescue Ranch, and more.
“It’s an overwhelming and humbling experience to be able to support so many organizations,” says Father Jerry. “But when representatives from St. Peter’s first approached Holy Spirit leadership about a partnership, we were hesitant,” he admits. It was 2021, and in the height of the pandemic, and the leadership at Holy Spirit was concerned about taking on a new ministry in addition to the Holy Spirit Food Pantry, which serves about 150 to 175 people every month. “Then some of our leadership visited the shop and were incredibly impressed with the operation,” recalls Father Jerry. Erin McChesney manages the shop with a group of dedicated volunteers.
The shop’s rock-bottom prices attract a range of shoppers, from those who are financially insecure to those who are just looking for a bargain. In addition, if someone experiences a tragedy – a fire or flood, for example – the volunteers at Heavenly Finds Thrift Shop will donate clothes, housewares, toys, and other needed items.
The Heavenly Finds Thrift Shop is open on most Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., plus one Saturday a month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; it will be open next on Saturday, February 4. The Thrift Shop is located at 94 E. Mount Pleasant Avenue (Route 10) in Livingston, next to the Ritz Diner.
If you are looking for a place to donate gently used items where you know the money will be used to help others, you can leave your donation in the shop’s glass vestibule, which is open 24/7. If the volunteers don’t think they will be able to sell an item, they donate it to other organizations that can.
“In 1955, when the women of St. Peter’s started the thrift shop, they wanted to use the proceeds to help others,” says Rev. Katherine Rollo, assisting clergy at Holy Spirit. “I’m sure they would be delighted today.”
For more information on the Heavenly Finds Thrift Shop visit heavenlyfinds.org or visit us on Facebook at Heavenly Finds Thrift Shop.