by Colin Ingram
Care & Share Thrift Shoppes is a conference related ministry of Franconia Conference and an independent organization that is part of the Mennonite Central Committee Thrift Shop Network, a bi-national group of shops that support the mission of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). According to Sarah Bergin, executive director of Care & Share, the mission of Care & Share is to seek to model God’s love and care for the earth and its people through recycling efforts and a positive shopping experience, with a purpose of funding MCC’s ministries around the world. Since 1976, Care & Share has given around 15 million dollars to MCC.
The Care & Share Thrift Shoppes opened in 1975 as one shop of 8,000 square feet. Today they have grown to 6 stores covering over 31,000 square feet at the Souderton Shopping Center off of Route 113 and Bethlehem Pike in Souderton, PA. Within their stores one can find furniture, used books and clothing; there is a variety store, a thrift outlet, and they operate a shop on ebay.
The shopping center where Care & Share is located is owned and operated by the Franconia Mennonite Conference Board of Missions and Charities, and Bergin notes “in the beginning each Franconia Conference church gave a financial contribution towards the rent.” She noted that the conference and congregations continue to support Care & Share through their donations and by volunteering in the clothing store on a certain day of each month, a system continuing from the founding days of the thrift shoppes.
The impact of Care & Share is felt both locally and worldwide. Locally, Care & Share provides affordable clothes and goods along with the employees and volunteers of the shoppes spreading God’s love through serving with kindness.
One shopper, Jacqueline from Abington, Montgomery County, who bought a baby stroller to bless others shared “when you walk in the store you get this warm vibe. You don’t get that in every store you walk in.” She said, “I like what they do… I think it’s the understanding of the faith that they have with God.”
Care & Share has always been a place of hospitality to those in need. Refugees have been given the chance to select what they need from the clothing shop free of charge. Bergin also says the thrift outlet within the shopping complex allows for affordability for any budget. Then the usefulness of the unsold clothes continues when the store gives them to the MCC Material Resource Center in Harleysville; the resource center ships hundreds of tons of basic supplies, such as blankets, canned meat, and kits, to people in need around the world every year. The items they receive from Care & Share are either bailed and sold to a buyer with the funds going to MCC or sent to people around the world in need of the items.
The scope of impact surpasses Care & Share’s locality, because of its funding to MCC. Therefore, Franconia Conference, alongside Care & Share, is contributing to minister in Africa, Asia, South and Central Americas, and everywhere MCC serves.
By partnering with Care & Share, the conference is feeding the hungry in Nepal, building water dams in Africa, and helping locals sustain themselves agriculturally in Bolivia, as A Common Place reports MCC is doing.
Bergin stresses that this work would not happen without the over 1,000 volunteers giving their time at Care & Share.
Florence Histand, who has volunteered as a donation sorter for over 10 years said, “I enjoy doing this, and I’m retired so I volunteer instead of sitting at home in a rocking chair.”
Most volunteers come from Franconia and Eastern District Conferences, and work alongside other volunteers from the Brethren in Christ Church and other denominations.
Not only is Care & Share helping those in need — they are also conscious of being good stewards of the earth and work to limit their environmental footprint. The thrift outlet within the Care & Share complex –clothes being sold in bulk by the pound — keeps things out of the landfill. Bergin says they also try to keep the clothing in the United States to save on the impact of fuel and shipping to the environment.
By providing affordable clothing, friendly service, and funding for MCC (and its worldwide ministry), and with environmental conservation in mind, Care & Share and Franconia Conference are engaging the world and empowering people to embrace God’s mission.
Bergin says, “To keep growing, and to keep giving to MCC and to keep supporting those programs, we continue to need resources from the community — your donations as well as your volunteer time.”
Continue the mission by attending Care & Share’s 40th year gala April 26 at Calvary Church off of Route 113 in Souderton.
Visit their website for more information on how to support the ministry of Care & Share: http://www.careandshareshoppes.org/.