The Roundup -

Local Free Store Reaches Out to Serve Residents and Meet Needs


Shopping rooms are neatly organized and nicely display items to offer a fun shopping experience.

Since October 20th, 2012 the Free Store at Lonsdale United Methodist Church has been opening their doors the first and third Saturdays of each month. From 10:00 am until 12:00 pm, the Free Store invites people to shop for clothing, winter wear, shoes and other accessories free of charge with Reverend Vicki Waddington waiting to greet customers with juice, coffee and cookies.

"It gives us an opportunity to serve people without condition, with hospitality and have fun doing it," says Waddington. "Not everyone makes oil field wages and hard times can hit anyone. We like to be a helping hand and a friendly presence; we like loving our neighbor just like Jesus told us to do."

An average of twenty families participate in the "Shopping Saturdays" with each person filling out a shopping card as they enjoy complimentary snacks in the main entrance of the church. Sixteen items are allowed per shopping trip and the shopping cards are utilized as a way to keep track of items that are needed, but not on hand; individuals can then be contacted as the items come in.

Four rooms upstairs allow for a fun and friendly shopping environment: one housing infant's and children's items, one for teens and adults, one room for sorting and one room for Missions. Volunteers are on hand to help locate specifically needed items, bag clothes and write down anything that is needed but not on hand. Jodi Evenson, Gina McIntyre and Kristen Petersen sort through and display all of the donated items and anything that can't be used is sent to the Missions room where it will be transported to Collective Recyclers out of Laurel, MT and Buffalo Exports out of Seattle, WA; Missions donations are weighed and the Free Store gets between one and fifty cents back per pound of donated items. This money is used to supply the store with snacks, bags, shopping cards, new socks and underwear and even gift cards from local grocery stores. The collected items are then distributed to thrift stores and shelters and any unsalvageable goods are turned into insulation, putting everything to good use.

Reverend Vicki Waddington of the Lonsdale United Methodist Church greets customers with coffee and treats each shopping day.

The inspiration for the project came after a church garage sale that left a few wondering if some good could come of the left over clothing that didn't sell. Shortly after that Waddington spoke with Reverend Jeremy Scott, formerly of the Evangelical United Methodist Church in Billings. Scott had experience with the Free Store within the church he served while at seminary. The original coordinators, Nanette Bergerson and Sarah Bundy, spent two months sorting through donations and preparing the display rooms before they could officially open their doors.

The store reaches beyond the physical boundaries of its four walls, providing clothing to wear home for ER patients that have had their clothing cut off of them or soiled. In the past, coats have also been given to local elementary schools for students who needed them and even prom dresses, shoes and jewelry have been donated through the Free Store by other teen girls.

Donated items are always needed though seasonal clothing is best due to limited storage and anyone interested in filling a specific need or volunteering their time sorting or helping with shopping days is encouraged to contact the church at 406-433-3110. The Lonsdale United Methodist Church is located at 205 3rd Ave SE Sidney, MT, 59270.


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