Upbeat music, welcoming aromas, friendly faces and a huge selection of clothing for men, women and children greet shoppers at The Harris County FOCUS Thrift Shop. Fashionable accessories, shoes, purses, housewares and linens are also sold.
Shop manager Sherrie Mundy calls the store a "thriftique." Items sold at the store have all been donated, and most are gently used, but Sherrie's consistently impressed with the quality of the items she receives.
"It's a fun job. I really enjoy matching the clothing. The people are incredibly nice," Sherrie says.
Harris County FOCUS executive director Sarah Culpepper says money raised at the thrift shop is the main way FOCUS (Fellowship of Christians United in Service) is able to run its food bank and help people in the community pay their medical and utility bills. FOCUS is a faith-based nonprofit organization (501 C-3) dedicated to those in need in Harris County.
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"The store raises money to help others but the store is for everyone who loves to get a good deal," Sarah says.
Located near the square in Hamilton, across the street and south of Wells Fargo, the thrift shop is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
Rebecca Turner, of Pine Mountain, is a frequent shopper.
"I get more compliments on things I find here And I really like getting a bargain," she says. She says most of the clothes seem like they're new.
That's likely thanks to the thriftique's team of volunteers that sort and organize items. Donations that don't make it to the shop's floor are given to other organizations including Valley Rescue Mission, schools, senior housing developments, hospices and animal shelters.
Krystal Wenger, a rising home-schooled senior in Waverly Hall, worked as a summer intern at the shop. She did a lot of sorting.
"You never know what you're going to find here," she says. "There's some really great stuff."
The thrift store's constantly changing inventory offers shoppers a lot of choices.
"There's always something new You can get cute things and save your money for other stuff," Rebecca says.
Sherrie and the shop's volunteers are also happy to help shoppers pair outfits and find accessories to pull together their look. "We all love clothes. In fact, some of our volunteers are also our best customers," Sherrie says.
Meeting new people and greeting first-time guests is a highlight for Sherrie but she also loves interacting with the regulars.
"We have a lot of repeat customers," Sherrie says.
She thinks the quality and the low costs keep people coming back. Most gently used clothes cost $3, dresses are sold for $4 and women's and men's suits cost $7. Children's items are $2. New clothes are sold for double the cost of gently-used items. A new dress would likely cost $8.
Sarah, who volunteered at FOCUS for four years before becoming executive director this winter, loves her position.
"It's a rewarding experience," Sarah says.
Most rewarding is being able to help people through difficult times in their lives. Several weeks ago, a man who had received help paying his utility bills when he was laid off, stopped by the FOCUS offices to let Sarah know that he wouldn't be back. He'd found a new job. "He said, 'Thank you for keeping me afloat,'" Sarah remembers.
"That's what it's all about," she says.
The emergency services offices and the food bank are open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
As the holidays approach, food donations are especially welcome. Last Thanksgiving, Sarah said about 430 families received meal packages designed to help them through the holiday season.
For those doing back-to-school closet cleaning, donation bins at the thrift shop are available at all hours. In many cases, donation pickups can also be arranged. Kids' clothes sized 3T to 12 are always in high demand at the shop.
This Christmas, Focus will offer a new program called Santa's Workshop where kids can shop in an area of the store for holiday gifts for their parents and siblings. Details will be available on Facebook as the holiday season approaches.
Learn more about FOCUS