Twenty-six years ago, it took a village of volunteers to open a small thrift store on Main Avenue to benefit Sisters Habitat for Humanity’s building program. A larger store was later built on the same site. Sisters Habitat for Humanity Thrift Store was successful enough to outgrow its space and needed a larger home.

Last month, many of the original volunteers and new Habitat for Humanity supporters celebrated the grand opening of Sisters Habitat’s new Thrift Store location at the former Sisters Drug and Gift building at 211 E. Cascade Ave.  

The grand opening party kicked off at the former store on Main Avenue with a prayer of gratitude from Pastor Ron Gregg. Gregg also blessed the building when it opened over two decades ago. Then the group grabbed kazoos, tambourines and hula-hoops to make a procession to the new location on Cascade Avenue. Folks were greeted by board member Roger Fairfield who blessed the new store with a prayer. Sisters Mayor Chuck Ryan, Floyd Leithauser (great-grandson of the original store owner), and previous owners of the Sisters Drug Store Tim and Deanna Muir shared their reflections about the momentous occasion.

Tim and Deanna Muir owned the building since 1985 and ran Sisters Drug & Gift until the business was sold in 2008. The building came up for sale last year.

“Our store director, Don Reed, was picking up donated fixtures at Sisters Drug & Gift as they were closing. He came back and suggested we look at the store to purchase it for our Thrift Store operations,” Sharlene Weed, executive director for Habitat for Humanity told The Nugget.

Weed said, “The next week, a group of us went to tour the building. We were of course easily enamored with the idea. Much to our surprise, toward the end of our tour the agent told us she had been in touch with the Muirs and that they felt Habitat would be a good fit.”

Habitat for Humanity Thrift Store staff worked together with the Muirs to arrive at a price and terms that would work for Habitat. 

Weed added, “With the sale of our existing building and the increase in sales projected, we are confident that we will be able to pay off the building within five years, while also maintaining our home-building program at the current pace of three homes per year. But, when we closed the deal last October, the reality of what it would take to renovate the space to accommodate our operations and open the new store set in.”

During the open house for the Sisters Habitat for Humanity Thrift Store, volunteer Linda Simmons approached Weed to discuss her recent retirement and that she was a project manager and was willing to help coordinate all the many pieces necessary to open the new thrift store.

“Over the next months Linda kept us moving. At the same time, local builder Dave Clark helped us with the design and together with his daughter Brenna spent hours working on the rehabilitation of the new store,” said Weed. 

Habitat construction manager Darlene Snider and the house-building crew remodeled walls for the new sorting room, bathroom, and dressing room, installed flooring, painted and built countertops, and built the new sorting room cabinets.

Weed noted, “Board member Bob Lawton worked on the exterior signage. Board member Bob Buchholz contacted the Energy Trust and helped us obtain incentive funds to change over 500 bulbs to efficient LEDs that have already reduced our utility costs.”

Thrift Store volunteers led by Store Director Don Reed and volunteer Nan Daschel began working on the retail floor layout.

Over one hundred volunteers provided the hands that made it possible.

Sue Edgerton, who has been a volunteer for the Thrift Store for over 15 years, remembers standing at the cashier counter the day she timidly mentioned she’d like to volunteer.

“Lovely Thrift Store volunteer Nan Miller said to me, ‘We train on Monday!’ That started a 17-year tale of volunteering with some wonderful people. I have sorted clothing, washed and priced housewares, and for many years have been a cashier, which I love to do. Talking to all our interesting customers and seeing what treasures they have discovered that day is always fun. I also served on the store committee for a few years. We supported the volunteers several ways and had a great time at our meetings.”

Daschel, who was instrumental with her help during the remodel, was looking for a way to “pay it back” after she retired.

“I find it rewarding for the friendships I have made, the homes we built and the lives we changed.”

The larger store has shown Habitat for Humanity that more volunteer help is needed with cashiering, receiving and sorting donated items.

Store hours will stay the same as the previous hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Donations are accepted 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday in the alley behind the building. Volunteers are needed at the new location as well as the ReStore and job site. Anyone interested in volunteering can RSVP to attend a volunteer orientation by calling the Habitat office at 541-549-1193.

“The next session is May 15, at noon at the Habitat offices, which are still located at the former store building, 141 W. Main Ave. The Habitat offices will be located at the two-story building until a space can be remodeled on the second floor of the new store,” Weed said.

Sisters Habitat for Humanity is dedicated to eliminating substandard housing locally and worldwide through constructing, rehabilitating and preserving homes; by advocating for fair and just housing policies; and by providing training and access to resources to help families improve their shelter conditions.  

Those interested in homeownership, home repair or volunteering with Sisters Habitat can visit the website or call the Habitat office at 541-549-1193.  

In the coming year Sisters Habitat for Humanity will work toward a permanent location for their ReStore and offices.