On a recent Tuesday, Karen Marsala went shopping.
Marsala, of Minooka, browsed the clothes racks at St. Vincent de Paul’s Thrift Store in Morris.
A long-time regular customer of the store, she’s bought furniture and clothes and decorations there, and enjoys coming in as much as the finds she leaves with.
“I love the way they treat me here,” she said. “They treat me like family.”
Store Manager Terry Mathias, standing nearby, hugged Marsala.
“You are family,” Mathias said.
For almost 30 years — 12 in its current location — the thrift store has been both a community staple and an all-around helper of the area’s disadvantaged.
“I’m really proud of this store,” Mathias said. “Whatever we can do to help the needy, we do.”
But, Mathias said, donations are down. And that’s making it harder to help those who need it.
“This space,” Mathias said, pointing at the area in the back of the store where donations are collected and stored, “is usually completely full.”
Instead, it holds a scattering of objects, but is by no means stocked.
“Our donations are really down,” Mathias said. “I don’t think the community is completely aware of everything we do.”
Profits from the store go to the needy. But that’s not all.
According to Mathias, the store also give linens to the homeless, helped furnish the library at Shabbona School in Morris, and even provides clothing and other basic needs to people and families who can’t afford them.
“In our store, we go a lot of extra miles,” she said.
Mathias has worked at the store for the last 10 years. Before that, she worked at the Moose Lodge. Her favorite part of both jobs, she said, is helping people.
“Everybody deserves something,” Mathias said.
That desire to be a force for good in the community seems to be part of the atmosphere of the store.
“We’re all like a big family here,” said Irene Leopold, a cashier at the store.
Leopold likes the environment of the place, and the variety of items donated.
“I love it because it’s not the same thing everyday,” Leopold said.
On a given day, you can find clothes, coats, furniture, books and movies, among other things.
All, according to Mathias, are priced lower than most stores — including other thrift shops.
“We try to keep prices affordable to everyone,” she said.
But with donations “lower than ever,” it’s hard to make money to help people. Mathias hopes the community will take action.
“We need our community’s help,” she said, “just like we’ve tried to help the community all these years.”