On racks packed throughout Amazing Grace Thrift Shop, printed dresses, colorful T-shirts and sports jerseys are arranged to catch customers’ attention.
Appliances, dishware and jewelry are set up on easy-to-browse shelves. Baby strollers are stacked to one side.
To owner Sharon Andis, each piece of clothing and household item has the potential to make a small impact in the lives of the needy. For 10 years as a single mom, she shopped thrift stores to get clothing for her four children.
She relied on the generosity of churches and others in the community to make sure they had shirts and jeans to play in, shoes to run around in and coats to keep them warm.
Now, she’s helping people in Edinburgh in the same way.
“When someone comes in the door, I can identify with their need. They have a pride and a self-esteem that we need to keep intact and help them get what they need for success,” Andis said.
The shop accepts donations from the community to stock its shelves. People bring in good bags of slightly worn clothing, shoes, furniture and appliances.
In an adjoining storefront, individuals from the community have set up booths in a flea market.
Cathy Hadley shops at garage sales and antique stores for old jewelry, collectibles and knickknacks. She adds a quarter or 50 cents to the cost to make a small profit but then resells it.
“I just like for someone else to enjoy it, so I don’t put much on it,” Hadley said.
Hadley has volunteered and worked at Amazing Grace since it opened. She has been in the position that many of the shop’s customers have been.
Years ago, she was out of work and struggled to find enough money for food, heating bills and rent. New clothes were out of the question.
“I remember back when I didn’t have anything, what it was like to just get something new. I don’t have a whole lot now, but I’m better off and I like to help others,” Hadley said.
Amazing Grace was founded almost nine years ago as a ministry of Who So Ever Will Community Church. But two years ago, church officials decided to sell the shop.
Andis was shopping for furniture for her son’s first house and struck up a conversation with the woman working the cash register. She learned that the church wanted to sell the shop. Andis was intrigued and asked for the pastor’s phone number.
“I had been looking for a business I could buy and run. I have a mentally impaired daughter, and I wanted something that we could work in together and give her a job,” Andis said.
Since taking over Amazing Grace, Andis said, she has seen God’s work in the people who both come to shop and those who support the store itself.
Last year, a man walked into the store, explaining that he had just been released from prison. He needed work clothes and shoes for a job that he had just received.
The only problem was, he had no money.
“He was very upfront about it. I told him that I had a number of odd jobs around the store. If he completed those jobs, he could pick out a whole outfit,” Andis said.
That man came back months later, asking her if she remembered him. Though Andis didn’t, he explained that he was back on his feet, had a job and needed work boots. He thanked her for trusting in him, helping him when his need was the greatest.
A 12-year-old girl came to the counter at Amazing Grace, telling Andis that she needed new shoes. Her dad didn’t have any money to pay for them, though.
Andis took a look at the worn, barely-held-together shoes she was wearing. Thinking for a moment, she made the girl a deal. Andis would trade the shoes the girl was wearing for another pair from the shop.
“In her mind, she got to pay for her own shoes,” Andis said.
Darlene Morphew, an Edinburgh resident, comes to Amazing Grace to sell home decor items she has collected or found in other antique stores. People can pick up framed artwork, an ornate antique mirror or a coffee machine in her booth.
A former customer of the shop, the money that she makes allows her to help pay her utility bills each month, she said.
“It fills a void in me. I cannot begin to describe how this has helped me,” she said.
Another Edinburgh resident, Mayme Stapleton, gets clothes that are no longer able to be sold. She recycles the items into rags that she then sells to area factories, providing a small amount of income for herself.
“I have done this for years. She gives me rags, that I cut up, cut buttons and zippers and everything, then sell them to the factories,” Stapleton said.
Some of the customers come in and spend their morning flipping through the clothing racks, chatting with other people who show up and socializing.
Andis and Hadley know they don’t have any money to buy anything. But the experience of shopping is good for their self-esteem.
“They’ll pick things out, go around like any other person shopping. They ask you to hold it until a certain day, but they never come back to get it,” Hadley said. “It feels good for them just to be able to pick things out.”
That spirit of generosity spreads. Often, customers will clandestinely offer to pay for another shopper’s shoes or dress, leaving the money and letting it be a surprise at checkout.
Other times, people will leave some spare change or a few extra dollars at the register to help another customer out.
“It happens all the time that someone will be just short for what they want to buy. We let them know that we have a little extra so they can buy it,” Andis said. “It’s just fun to get involved in people’s lives, even for a short amount of time.”