What started out as a simple rummage sale has grown into a thriving resale store that’s given back $1 million to nonprofit groups and ministries in Chillicothe over the past eight years.
“To generate that much money for charities from a small town like this is pretty amazing to me,” said Brent Ressler, executive director of Small World Connections, who oversees the Chillicothe Helping Hands Resale Shoppe. “It’s like having a fundraiser set up for a different charity group every week.”
Located at 1249 N. Fourth St., the shop is a partnership between Small World Connections and a nonprofit Chillicothe youth center called Crossword Café that benefits about 50 charitable groups.
The Small World Connections, Crossword Café and the designated nonprofit group for the week each receive one-third of the store’s proceeds in any given week. Small World Connections organizes mission trips and helps missionaries around the world, while the Crossword Café is a gathering place for youth that offers
The checks are given out at the end of each month. In February, more than $9,200 was divided up between Drew’s Plots, the Princess Closet, the Love-In-Action food pantry, Small World Connections and the Crossword Café.
“It’s definitely been a walk by faith, but I wouldn’t trade anything or do anything differently,” said Ressler, a former pastor who helped start Crossword Café in 2001 and started Small World Connections in 2008.
Ressler and a small group of people first had the idea to start a resale shop to help fund the Small World Connections ministry in 2009. However, the group hit a wall in trying to find a building to house the shop.
“A couple of potential locations fell through, but in the meantime people were asking when we were going to get started because they had a basement full of stuff for us,” he recalled.
Around the same time, Ressler learned that Crosswords Café director John Heffron was starting a fundraising campaign to keep the youth center open. “They were kind of up against it financially,” Ressler said. “They were close to closing and were trying to do a big push to raise $10,000 to keep it going.”
Ressler suggested kicking off their fundraiser with a big rummage sale of all the donated items people had been saving for the potential resale shop. The three-day sale raised about $4,500 and started a quick series of events that led to the opening of the Helping Hands Resale Shoppe.
“Our plan was to have a manager who would agree to be commission-based, which is a pretty big thing to ask. Then one of the volunteers at the rummage sale—Sherry Adams—stepped up and said she’d be the manager,” Ressler said. A few days later a business owner offered a space on Second Street rent-free for a month on a trial basis.
“That was on a Monday. We moved all the stuff the next day and opened on Wednesday,” Ressler said.
“We just had tables, no shelves or anything. So we put out all this stuff we had left over from the rummage sale and we named the food pantry as the first group we were going to help. And the rest is history.”
A few years later the shop moved to its current location, which it leased for a year and then bought with a $40,000 down payment raised with help from the community.
“We have about three more years to pay it off. When that happens, we’ll have less expenses going out so we’ll have more to give out to the groups,” Ressler said. His wife, April, has taken over as the commission-based manager after Adams retired.
The spacious store has several rooms that are neatly filled with just about everything, including clothing, furniture and housewares.
“My biggest concern when we started this was how we were going to get stuff to sell, but that’s been the least of our problems,” Ressler said. “We get so many donations of everything, including the kitchen sink. Literally.”
The group has since expanded, opening a Helping Hands Resale Shoppe in Canton in 2013 and in Peoria Heights last year. Both stores are doing well, but Ressler said the Peoria Heights store needs more volunteers.
The charitable groups that benefit can choose to be as involved as they want to be. “They don’t have to provide volunteers because we have core volunteers that are there, though some do send volunteers to help out on Saturdays,” Ressler said. “They can talk it up, put it in their newsletters and tell people to shop and donate during their designated week. That boosts the sales and helps everybody do better.”
Groups that receive funds include Scout troops, social service clubs and booster clubs. Groups can apply at the store to be included.
“A lot of charities tell us their week on the schedule helps them keep going,” Ressler said. “There was a pretty big cut back on United Way funding a few years ago, so we’ve filled some of the those gaps. It’s been neat to kind of be that source of funding for people without them having to do a separate fundraiser all the time.”
Donations are accepted any time the Helping Hands Resale Shoppe is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information call 309-274-2885 or visit the website at www.helpinghandsresale.com/chilli.
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—- Helping Hands returns $1 million to Chillicothe nonprofits, ministries —-