Sharon Foskey’s thrift store Heavenly Treasures in downtown Cleveland served as more than just a shop for discounted, second-hand items.
The store gave Foskey a venue to meet those in need of help. She offered them a hand up, not a handout.
Clothes, knick-knacks, accessories, shoes and miscellaneous items were offered at an inexpensive price. Those in serious need received three sets of bottoms, tops, pairs of socks, and underwear, and one pair of shoes for free. Colder months often found Foskey offering a coat when supplies permitted.
The store was primarily manned by Foskey. Profits went toward rent, utilities and finding certain items requested by patrons, such as sleeping bags. Foskey’s constant involvement with those in need encouraged her to open a discipleship ministry. Mercy House was meant to be a place where women, and men eventually, could get their lives back on the right track.
Unfortunately, the stress of running one business while starting up a nonprofit proved too much. Foskey’s doctor informed her she would have to choose one or the other for health reasons. Much prayer led her to the decision to close Heavenly Treasures.
Suddenly, she realized many people she had aided in the past would have nowhere to go. Having been homeless for a short time in the past, Foskey said she understands where these people are coming from. She made a pledge to always remember.
“I’m never going to forget what it felt like to dive into that dumpster when [employees threw] that food out of that restaurant just to have a hot meal, to take a knife and pry open a can of cat food because you’re starving to death,” Foskey said. “I’m not going to do it and I don’t think that God wants me to [forget].”
Continued Foskey, “Because if I forget, I lose my compassion for these people.”
In an effort to provide for her former patrons, Foskey reached out to River of Life Thrift Store Ministries on Inman Street and Second Harvest Thrift Store and Ministry Center on South Lee Highway.
She asked if both stores would be willing to offer aid in a similar fashion as she had.
Once they agreed, she separated Heavenly Treasures’ merchandise between the two establishments.
“I never believed in hoarding and I always had more than I needed,” Foskey said. “I believe in sharing. … We just worked together. That’s what it’s all about, it’s all for one purpose — to help people that need help.”
Leroy and Brenda Rhoden set up River of Life Thrift Store as a nonprofit almost 4 1/2 years ago. All money goes to one of two places: keeping the store open and River of Life Holiness Church. Brenda currently serves as the store manager.
The store is divided in several sections: toys and children’s clothes; utensils and dining ware; furniture; clothing for men and women; and miscellaneous items. A sign hanging in the children’s room announces all shirts and bottoms to be 75 cents.
Vesta Branson, volunteer, said for one week every month, patrons are able to fill a bag with as many clothes as will fit them, all for $4.
Leroy said they have had a lot of experience helping those in need.
“We’ve seen a lot of people come in needing help and we do help and we’ve seen a lot of fakes and we can tell the difference,” Leroy said. “When they are asking for money, you know.”
Leroy and Brenda agreed they are willing to help those in need as much as they are able. Some just request prayer.
Pam Goodwin, a Second Harvest employee, said you have to have a heart for the job.
Some people request help and attempt to play the nonprofit system. Others request help, but really only want someone to speak with them.
The South Lee Highway thrift store opened in 2007 as a nonprofit. It serves as another arm of outreach for North Cleveland Church of God. Joe Hanshaw, manager, said a majority of the employees work there because they enjoy serving.
“All of the money we make here goes back into the ministry,” Hanshaw said. “We’re not here to make money.”
Foskey was initially struck by how the store presented itself.
“I walked in and saw that it’s workable, but not fancy and that spoke to me big time,” Foskey said. “I said, ‘This is a true ministry. … You can tell.”
Second Harvest is set up like a small department store. Rooms branch off from the main hallway to cover clothes for all ages before opening to the main showroom floor. Pieces of furniture, shoes, accessories and knick-knacks can be found there. A special 99-cent room is also included in the thrift store’s set up.
Every second Wednesday of the month, clothes are half-priced for four days.
Foskey said it was difficult letting go of Heavenly Treasures. However, she said she feels she can trust both thrift stores to continue the good work she strived to provide.