2017-12-03 / Insight

North Branch Thrift Shop are neighbors helping neighbors

BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com


Anita Harrand and Linda Picarski of North Branch total up the bill at the North Branch Thrift Shop. Funds raised by the shop help keep emergency assistance programs going in the community. 
Photo by Phil Foley Anita Harrand and Linda Picarski of North Branch total up the bill at the North Branch Thrift Shop. Funds raised by the shop help keep emergency assistance programs going in the community. Photo by Phil Foley NORTH BRANCH — For nearly 50 years a small group of dedicated volunteers have looked out for the less fortunate in the North Branch area.

The North Branch Community Emergency Aid Committee was formed in 1970 by a group of parishioners at the First United Methodist Church who saw a need in the community.

The committee currently operates the North Branch Thrift Shop out of a 3,500-square-foot building on Saginaw Street, just south of the Independent Bank, in a building that’s variously been a car dealership, elementary school and overflow space for the bank.

“We’re not a 501(c)(3),” said board member Linda Thibodeau, “but we are classed as a non-profit. No one gets paid. We’re all volunteers.”

Guided by a six-member board, more than 30 volunteers operate a thrift shop, which raises the funds needed to support a food pantry and an emergency aid program that helps with utilities and occasionally rent.

The food bank, Thibodeau said, currently provides food to about 200 peo- ple a month. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday and participating families can come for food once a month.

Families get enough food to last for four to five days. “This is supposed to be for emergencies,” she said.

Assistance for electric, heat and occasionally rent is available once a year for any family.

Thibodeau said the thrift shop volunteers average between 60 and 70 years old, though the she add, “the younger generation has been starting to fill in.” She said groups of students from the Quest Program at North Branch Area Schools have been stopping by a couple of times a week to help with sorting and moving things.


Board member Linda Thibodeau watches as Sandi Kimmel, a North Branch Thrift Shop volunteer from Brown City, sorts through new donations. Thibodeau said no one involved with the shop gets paid. It’s a total volunteer operation with all funds going back into the community. 
Photo by Phil Foley Board member Linda Thibodeau watches as Sandi Kimmel, a North Branch Thrift Shop volunteer from Brown City, sorts through new donations. Thibodeau said no one involved with the shop gets paid. It’s a total volunteer operation with all funds going back into the community. Photo by Phil Foley The shop, located at 6727 Saginaw St., is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. The shop is closed for major holidays and when the school district declares snow days.

Like most thrift shops, the North Branch Thrift Shop is heavy into clothes, home goods and decorations. But, said Thibodeau, “we have a little bit of everything — sport goods, toys, whatever comes in.” Two small sheds outside the store fill up with donations every couple of days.

“We count all our donations as blessings,” she said. However, given their limited space, they try to direct things like furniture and large appliances to places like the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

“We try to keep prices reasonable,” she said, and the store often has “bag sales.” The next one will be Dec. 6-9 and customers will be able to take home anything they can get in store-provided bags for $5. Large items that can’t fit in the bag will be half-off.

“This is an ongoing garage sale that never stops,” she said.

Along with the emergency aid program, Thibodeau said the committee runs a school supply program in the fall, an ecumenical service that includes members of eight area churches and Angel Trees at local churches that provide Christmas presents for about 100 needy children in the area annually.

Thibodeau said the committee defines the North Branch area as the North Branch Area School District. Beyond that, she said, it follows the Eastern Michigan Food Bank guidelines for making decisions on providing assistance.

“We’re just an assist, not a mainstay,” she said.

To volunteer or learn more about the North Branch Thrift Shop, call 810-688-2920.

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