Helping Hands volunteers

The thrift shop is run by volunteers who take great pride in keeping the shop open and the donated items in good condition.

Providing affordable items and valuable services to residents in need, the Helping Hands thrift shop is regarded as a valuable community resource in Milton. 

Helping Hands is a community thrift store selling gently used clothing for all ages. Clothes are not just the only items the shop sells. The space also has sections allocated for toys, dishes, linens, books and more. Prices can range from 50 cents to $5. 

The thrift shop is run by volunteers who take great pride in keeping the shop open and the donated items in good condition. The volunteers have a motto to not make large amounts of money, but to be a group that offers a place for people to clothe themselves and family members for little to no money. 

Appreciation and impact

On Wednesday, May 10, the United Church of Milton hosted an appreciation luncheon for the shop’s 21 dedicated volunteers. 

Rick Stowell, council moderator at the church, said the volunteers do an amazing job taking in donated items, and he recognizes the impact these volunteers have had on the community.

“They are the ones coming in every week to keep the shop open; the church just gives them the space to do it,” Stowell said. 

The thrift shop was organized in 2002 by Gloria Geary at the United Church of Milton, and once volunteers join they tend to stay volunteers for a long time. 

“I was probably the third person to join the organization in 2002, and have worked at the shop since,” volunteer Shirley Nelson said. 

It is certainly no mystery as to why volunteers stay with the organization. At the luncheon, the volunteers shared jokes and memories of their times working together. Overall, they just enjoy seeing the impact they have on their community and helping others. 

“I wouldn’t work here if I didn’t like it,” volunteer Joan Cleveland exclaimed. “To volunteer somewhere, you have to enjoy it!”

Nelson told the Independent some of her favorite memories are seeing the kids who come in and are excited to browse the thrift shop. 

“Some of these families don’t have an opportunity to go shopping often and get clothes,” Nelson said. “So when these kids come in, sometimes super talkative or shy, we can actively see the impact we are making on their lives.” 

Recently retired Milton elementary school teacher, Julie Talley, said Helping Hands has collaborated with the district and other community organizations to provide affordable resources to students and families in the community. 

“We are so thankful for all of the volunteers at Helping Hands,” Talley said. 

Growth over time 

The thrift shop has always been based out of the United Church of Milton, and originally was on the upper level of the church; but as donations flowed in, volunteers needed more space to organize and present available items for purchase. 

“Community members just started bringing clothes, and it just got bigger and bigger,” Nelson said. 

In an effort to create more space for the volunteers to carry out their mission, the church granted them numerous rooms in the lower level of the building. Now the volunteers have a proper sorting room, as well as a space to run the shop out of. 

“It’s better that we are on the lower level now,” volunteer Joan Cleveland said. “Now people can come in without having to go up and down the stairs so often, which can be hard on some of us.”

When community members bring in donations, they are asked to bring them in when the shop is open or when a volunteer is on site. 

“We get a lot of donations where things are just left at the back door…we don’t like that because weather can damage the items. Please make sure someone is here to collect the donations,” Nelson said. 

The thrift shop is open three days a week, and each Monday about four to six volunteers come in to sort through donations. By sorting through donations each week, volunteers maintain that the thrift shop inventory is constantly being updated for customers. 

Helping Hands thrift shop is based in the lower level of the United Church of Milton, located at 51 Main Street.

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