Addressing the Cashier Challenge through a New Position

We’ve got some exciting things happening in Treasures Thrift Store!

At FROM (Flat River Outreach Ministries) we are blessed with an incredible group of volunteers who help keep our thrift store running smoothly and efficiently. Volunteers touch every aspect of the store – from when items are donated until they are purchased!

Over the last several years, keeping our cashier position filled for all shifts has proved to be a consistent challenge. Due to limited volunteers available for key time frames (evenings and weekends) we’ve had to make the difficult decision to limit our open hours, and periodically have to close the store early. We know that disappoints our shoppers, and it impacts our ability to serve families in need in our community

Thrift Store Manager and Thrift Store Coordinator positions have not been able to address the cashier gap due to other needs throughout the store.

With this consistent challenge, we’ve decided to create a Cashier Lead position. This approximately 20 hour a week staff position will start as a 6-month pilot position. We are excited to welcome Dolores Bell into this role!

Dolores has worked with us both as a volunteer and through a program with AARP both as a receptionist and in the thrift store. Her warm and friendly personality has welcomed countless visitors through our front door, and we know she will help us create a welcoming experience for our customers and volunteers.

She’ll be working alongside Laura, Thrift Store Manager, and Tarin, Thrift Store Coordinator, to help:

  • Provide stability in the Cashier Schedule to ensure we don’t have to close early.
  • Work evenings and weekends and fill in where volunteers are not available.
  • Allow us to participate in special events and stay open later to provide a better customer experience!
  • Help open and close the register and train other cashiers!

FROM learned about the Cashier Lead position while investigating best practices other West Michigan thrift stores. We learned that one thrift store uses all paid staff at the register while another uses a combination of paid staff and volunteers at the register. The one using a combination utilizes several managers, assistant managers and a Cashier Lead role to fill in the volunteer gaps in the schedule.

“I’m so excited to have this position which, along with our amazing volunteers, will give us the opportunity to provide the necessary coverage to help fill our gaps as well as help us provide the best shopping experience for our customers,” Laura, Thrift Store Manager, said.

We are so thankful for all of our volunteers who work so hard in the thrift store to help us make a difference in the lives of families in need in our community. We’re excited to see how this position will come alongside volunteers and make an even greater impact in our community.

Please join us in welcoming Dolores to the FROM team!

 

Get to Know our Thrift Store Manager Laura!

Laura, our Thrift Store Manager, has been on staff for just over a month! To celebrate, we’ve invited her to answer a few questions so we can all get to know her better! Enjoy!

Tell us a little about yourself!

I moved to the Lowell area with my husband and two daughters, a little over a year ago from Battle Creek to be closer to my parents. I grew up in the Grand Rapids area, so it’s been fun to re-explore the area and familiarize myself with all the outdoor recreational opportunities that Lowell has to offer. I enjoy spending time with my family traveling, cooking, and playing pickle ball.

What drew you to FROM?

I was inspired by FROM’s mission to be the community hub for hope, resources and gifts.  I saw the FROM Store Manager position as an opportunity for me to leverage my experience in the Retail Industry in a non-profit setting and give back to the community in which I live.

What did you do prior to joining the FROM staff?

I have worked in the Retail/Clothing Industry throughout my career in various capacities, from Sales Manager/Assistant Store Manager, Merchandise Manager, Operations Manager, Product Analyst, Human Resources Manager to Business Administration Manager and was most recently employed by Macy’s for the past 11 years. I enjoy Retail, most especially working with people, and saw the Thrift Store Manager role as a rewarding opportunity to put my experience to work in a non-profit setting.

What have you enjoyed the most in your first month as the Thrift Store Manager?

My favorite part of the job is working with such a talented team of staff and volunteers whose mission is to provide resources for the Lowell community.  I have been very impressed by the dedication, passion and commitment of the volunteers and staff to make FROM a success. I am excited to be part of this organization and their mission to support the Lowell community.

Which of FROMs values sticks out to you the most / what makes you most passionate about being part of the FROM team?

I am aligned with FROM’s values….most especially, “Equity” in achieving our mission for all people. I saw the FROM Store Manager position as an opportunity for me to make a positive impact on the community by leveraging my experience in the Retail Industry to help achieve equal access and opportunities to help meet the needs of the community.

What’s a random fact about yourself?

I love to travel and my goal is to visit all 50 states….I have 4 more states to visit in order to hit 50 – Mississippi, Louisiana, Idaho, and Alaska!!

 

Lasting Legacy & Affordable Housing

The “fun” uncle. Great conversationalist. Frugal. Friend of FROM (Flat River Outreach Ministries). These all describe Phil Rice, who passed away at the end of 2020.

Through Phil, FROM was blessed to receive a generous estate gift that will be used to help families in need in our community access safe and affordable housing.

“The generous gift of Phil Rice will help Flat River Outreach Ministries continue pursuing affordable housing solutions right here in our community,” Wendie Preiss Executive Director shared.

Kathy Brady, Phil’s niece, said he was drawn to FROM because of the way FROM serves families and individuals in need. He worried about people who were in need and didn’t know where to go. He wanted to ensure they were taken care of.

Phil and his wife of sixty-four years, Donna Mae, were generous to many organizations over the years. FROM and the Humane Society were among the organizations that worked to address causes that were near and dear to them

We are so thankful for the generosity from Phil and Donna Mae and for their lasting impact on our community.

From Darkness to Joyfulness

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Sable Choals found herself volunteering in 2016, she was in a dark place.

 

Her mom had recently passed away, as well as her best friend. Around the same time, a traffic stop led to losing her license, which took away her ability to care for her ailing step-father and needing to complete community service.

 

She started coming in at 7:30 AM, after getting off work as a chemist, to clean and vacuum – and anything else she could help with.

 

“I was welcomed, I never felt judged,” Sable said.

 

Along the way, she met and befriended other volunteers who offered listening ears and encouragement to her – without judgement.

 

“If it had not been for Marcia [Kapolka] and me having that outlet to listen and not judge me, I really don’t know where I would have went,” Sable said. “She just lifted me up and told me everything was going to be OK.”

Sable finished her community service early, and continued volunteering at FROM. More than 5 years and nearly 2,100 volunteer hours later, Sable now helps out creating displays on her days off.

 

“I really did come out on the other side here,” she said. “I met a lot of other great people”

 

She said the reasons she continues to volunteer is because of friendships, giving back, the customers and the stories. “At some point I was like, ‘I am never leaving FROM again,’” she said.

 

She loves putting together displays so regular customers can see something different and loves chatting with customers about their purchases because you learn so much about them.

 

“To hear stories of the customers, it’s so enlightening,” she shared and continued on to say she constantly tries to remind herself what FROM is here for, and why she volunteers – to help other families and neighbors in need in the Greater Lowell Community.

 

Reflecting back on the last 5 years of volunteering and the growth she’s seen in herself as a person, Sable said, “I don’t think anyone should think a mistake should define you.”

 

“I want everyone to feel welcome and accepted,” Sable said. “I want to be able to help.”

 

Sable is one of more than 460 active volunteers at FROM. Volunteers touch every aspect of our organization – from setting our vision on the Board of Directors to serving in our programs and everywhere in between.

Farm Market Update! 3 Months In

       

It’s been just over three months since the launch of our newest program – Farm Market – and it’s been a huge success!

“The demand for the Farm Market has exceeded our initial expectations,” Kelly Glas, Healthy Food Coordinator, said. “We’re overwhelmed by the amount of support and items purchased over the last few months. It’s been amazing to meet and work with local farmers.”

More than 6,100 items sold in September, October and November with apples and eggs being the most popular items (with 767 apples and 324 dozen eggs being sold in our first two months).

Kelly shared that part of the program’s success, in additional to the cost, is that families can purchased items based on needs and family size. Food is priced either by item or pound, making it accessible to families no matter the size.

“People have shared that they’re thankful to be able to purchase just one potato, or apple, instead of multiple pounds,” Kelly said.

The Farm Market is located in Treasures Thrift Store and is open during the same hours as the store (Tuesday – Friday 10 AM-6PM and Saturday 10 AM – 2PM). The Farm Market is focused on making locally sourced produce accessible to families in the Greater Lowell Community who are earning less than 300% of the federal poverty guidelines. Families and individuals above this income level are welcome to shop as well! Purchasing produce will help ensure the long-term sustainability of the program.

Want to get involved? We are always looking for new partnerships with local farmers, as well as volunteers to help with stocking throughout the week. Please give us a call at 616.897.8260 if you want to get involved!

Farm Market Launches

FROM (Flat River Outreach Ministries) is launching a new food program September 9th! The program, called the Farm Market, will offer locally sourced fresh produce along with pantry staples, including milk, honey, and eggs.

For many years FROM participants have expressed the difficulty in affording fresh fruits and vegetables. This paid model program will help ensure families have access to healthy produce at affordable prices. This is similar to how the Food Pantry helps current participants access healthy food, as one food pantry participants shared, “the [Food] Pantry helps me eat better and be able to direct my fixed income toward necessary expenses.”

The Farm Market will be located in the FROM Treasure’s Thrift Shop and the produce will be sourced from their partnering local farmers. This program follows in the footsteps of other local nonprofits including North Kent Connect and UCOM (United Church Outreach Ministries) who launched similar programs nearly 5 years ago.

The Farm Market is focusing on making sure locally sourced produce is accessible to families in the Greater Lowell Community who are earning less than 300% of the federal poverty guidelines.
Families and individuals above this income level are welcome to shop as well! Purchasing produce will help ensure the long-term sustainability of the program.

“Although we have many farms surrounding Lowell, it can be hard to get that produce into the hands of families in our community who need it most,” Kelly Glas, FROM Healthy Food Program Coordinator, said. “By working directly with local farmers, we have the opportunity to bring fresh produce to a community hub location. This also gives us the opportunity to sell the produce at affordable prices so that those in our community who don’t have access to, or can’t typically afford healthy fresh produce, can come and purchase quality items for their families.”

Do you want to help make the Farm Market thrive? You can also show your support for the new program by volunteering at the Farm Market visiting the market, purchasing items, and spreading the word.

This program wouldn’t be possible without your support and support from King Milling Co. and Lowell Area Community Fund who have helped launch the Farm Market.

The Farm Market will be open during Treasures Thrift Store hours (Tuesday – Friday 10 AM – 6 PM and Saturday 10 AM – 4 PM). For more information, or to sign up to volunteer please visit www.fromlowell.org or reach out to FROM directly at info@fromlowell.org or (616) 897-8260.

2021 Food Fight Campaign Results

Throughout the month of May we held our annual friendly but fierce competition – that’s right – our annual Food Fight!

This once-a-year fundraising campaign splits the Lowell Area School District by M/21 / Fulton Street into the North Team and South Team. The campaign helps stock the food pantry, and raises funds to support all of the programs at FROM (we have more than a dozen!). Teams collect 1 point for each dollar or food item donated to FROM.

The team with the most points at the end is crowned the winner.

Together the teams raised more than 137,800 points this year – the most ever!

Generous matching sponsors helped provide a $31,750 match base that matched every financial gift until the match was completed.

We were blown away by the kindness of our community; the match was fulfilled before we were halfway through the fundraiser!

We celebrate the South Team for winning the 2021 Food Fight and tieing the teams for total overall wins to 6-6.

We are so thankful for each and every one of you who participated in Food Fight 2021. Because of you, we were able to touch the lives of families right here in our community.

Families like one of our food pantry participants who recently shared the impact the food pantry made in the lives of them and their family.

“When my husband lost his job we had to utilize the food pantry because we couldn’t afford food and was denied financial assistance through the federal government,” FROM participant shared. “Without the generosity of FROM my kids may have went hungry.”

Thank you to all our donors, including our Matching Sponsors (listed below) and Head Coach business spsonsors: Dery Physical Therapy Serivces, Chimera Design, McDonald’s, Metric Manufacturing, Timpson Transport, Canfield Plumbing & Heating, Doughtery Farms, Ada Bible Church and Lowell Area Schools.

Leaving a Lasting Legacy

Late last year Flat River Outreach Ministries (FROM) lost a dear friend – Donna Jean Ford.

The Lion’s football fan was an accountant and a lifelong resident of Lowell. She grew up on a farm and her parents cared about their community. Her father, a carpenter, was always fixing things for others.

“They’ve always had a giving spirit,” Kim Kropf, Donna Jean’s cousin said about the Ford family. “They might not have had the money, but they had the gift to give.”

Donna Jean carried that giving spirit throughout her life. She was involved in organizations she was passionate about including Pink Arrow, Clark Retirement, Lowell Area Arts Council, and FROM. The avid reader spent many years volunteering at the book department at Treasure’s Thrift Shop.

Kim shared Donna Jean’s ranch house held a library filled with books, many of them coming from a book club that mailed her books monthly. They sent her so many books in fact, Kim says, “they eventually sent her a letter saying they had no more books to send her.”

In total, Donna Jean volunteered more than 1,380 hours with FROM. Diane LaWarre, Donna Jean’s next door neighbor of nearly 30 years and FROM volunteer said that Donna Jean continued volunteering even after she had injuries that forced her to use a walker, and would put books on her walker to move them around.

“She was passionate about helping other people,” Diane said. Kim agreed saying Donna Jean loved that Lowell had such a great resource with the thrift shop, and that it was focused on people helping people.

“She loved how everybody could come together when there was a need to come together,” Kim said about Donna Jean’s love for the community.

The long-time volunteer was also a long-time donor to FROM, often giving to support the food pantry.

“She just didn’t want people to go hungry,” Kim said. “That was a big deal to her.”

Donna Jean’s life touched so much many both here at FROM and throughout the Greater Lowell Community. She generously gave FROM an estate gift which will help touch the lives of so many.

 

One Dozen Eggs at a Time

Amy Herbruck has passed by the FROM headquarters countless times. Last spring, she decided to reach out to FROM and learn more about what we do.

Amy, the Marketing and Community Outreach Manager at Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch, connected with Kelly Glas, our Healthy Foods Program Coordinator.

Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch, the largest egg producer in Michigan, has been partnering with FROM ever since.

“It just felt right,” Amy said about the partnership with FROM. “(FROM is) helping people and making them feel good while you’re helping them.”

Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch provides enough eggs each month to ensure each household that comes to our Food Pantry can have a dozen eggs.

“To have our shelves continually stocked with fresh, good quality eggs is a goal that we have been trying to achieve for many years,” Kelly said. “Thanks to the partnership with Herbruck’s we can now provide this source of protein to many community members in need. This partnership also allows us to direct our money elsewhere in the pantry.”

Amy agreed saying that eggs are one of the cheapest and cleanest proteins that families can use to cook with.

“We’re really proud of the work (FROM is) doing,” Amy said. To date, Herbruck’s has provided more than 20,000 individual eggs (more than 1,800 dozen eggs).

Providing Independence