McLean Thrift Shop Sells Top Quality for Low Prices

J. Crew suit: $8
Ann Taylor blouse: $2.50
Banana Republic slacks: $3
Shopping at the St. John the Beloved Thrift Shop in McLean: Priceless
Shoppers at this thrift shop, located behind the parish offices at St. John the Beloved Church in McLean, are greeted with friendly smiles and unbeatable prices. The store is filled with women's, men's and children's clothing; toys and games; housewares; linens and towels; shoes; handbags and purses; books; and electronics.
The shop, which opened in 1960, is run by more than 50 volunteers and depends on contributions from the parish and community. Customers travel from all over Northern Virginia, as well as Maryland and Washington to visit the store. They see something special here, said Chairwoman Marie Gillespie.
Repeat customers know to check out the new arrivals rack at the front. Each Saturday, this rack is emptied and filled with new donations, including many name brand items.
"We only put out the best of the best," said Cyndi Stephenson, a volunteer. They don't put out every item they receive. Instead, they sort through and find the cleanest and nicest articles to display, she added.
The store is organized into "departments" for children, housing supplies, men's clothing and shoes. Clothing is arranged by size with everything facing the same way, and there is a fitting room available, said Stephenson.
The store is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Every Monday, volunteers come to help sort new donations.
Lora Lee Francis, mother of 10 and grandmother to 57, has volunteered at the shop for more than 20 years and heads up the children's department. Her shelves are organized with games, puzzles, stuffed animals and other toys. When new games come in, Francis checks to make sure they have all the pieces. As she sorts through games and toys, she often puts something aside for her children and grandchildren.
"Our volunteers are our best customers," said Gillespie.
Stephenson has volunteered at the thrift shop for three years. She started at just one day a month, then moved to one day a week and now she comes in to help every day. She always enjoyed shopping at thrift stores and believes that this one is special.
Marge Brothers, co-chair, has worked at the thrift shop for 10 years.
"I'm a fanatic about organization," she said, adding that her first assignment at the shop was arranging the hangers.
Bob Rench, Pete Lofton and Dick DeCorps work in the store.
"It used to be all women," said DeCorps, public relations director. Now, the men help organize the men's department and tease that women don't know how to hang up men's pants. And they come in handy for testing electronic donations. The store doesn't want to sell something that doesn't work, he said.
Lofton, who has volunteered at the shop for three years, recently donated a handmade chair. He used a kit that started with rough lumber that he cut and sanded to make the finished product.
Proceeds from the shop return to the parish where the pastor and parish council decide how to use the funds, Gillespie said. Since the store has limited space, they also support other charitable organizations with what doesn't make it on the floor. This includes giving children's clothes to HOPE, a pro-life pregnancy center, and winter coats to a shelter for men.
For more information contact the thrift store at 703/356-4720. Angela E. Pometto can be reached at apometto@catholicherald.com.

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2006