Highland Lakes thrift stores help keep several nonprofits up and running
DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
MARBLE FALLS — Pam Spiller works the floor as good as anyone. As a customer walks in the front door of In Harmony Thrift Store, Spiller greets them, asks them if he or she is looking for anything in particular and then helps the person find just the right item.
Often, one item becomes two or three, maybe more.
“I love retail,” she said. “It’s in my blood.”
But as she helps people, answers the phone and tries to find the moose antlers, she can’t help dodge the elephant in the room. Its name is Goodwill.
In June, Goodwill Industries will open a store and center in Marble Falls. As one of the largest thrift stores in the nation, it will certainly get plenty of attention. Other local thrift store managers and beneficiaries hope residents don’t forget about them in the shadow of Goodwill.
“It’s a concern,” Spiller said. She’s worked at In Harmony for about eight years and has been the manager almost as long. The shop, 1104 RR 1431, serves as a funding source for Harmony School of Creative Arts, a local nonprofit dance, theater arts and music school. Along with supporting the school, money from the thrift store also helps with scholarships to Harmony.
Just down the road, Highland Lakes Family Crisis Center Executive Director Alma Lahmon said Goodwill’s presence weighs heavily on her mind. The center’s budget gets a great deal of infusion from Good Neighbor Thrift Store, 502 RR 1431.
“We couldn’t make it without the thrift store proceeds,” Lahmon said. “Those funds go right into the services we provide for our clients.”
The crisis center offers support, refuge and counseling for people who are victims of domestic abuse and related issues. The center provides services at no cost. Lahmon said the center also helps victims re-establish themselves when they move into a new location, which often means starting out from scratch.
“A lot of times, when they leave an abusive or dangerous situation, they don’t take anything with them,” she said. “So when they move into a new place, they don’t have anything — clothes or furniture.”
Staff can simply go to Good Neighbor Thrift Store and pick out items such as linens, a bed, clothing, cooking and dining utensils to help the individual or family members.
“It’s a significant part of our client services,” Lahmon said. “It’s really a community store. And all the money and all the items, they stay right here in the community we serve.”
In the past, local thrift stores such as Good Neighbor and In Harmony have come to the aid of families who have lost homes and belongings to fires or other disasters.
“We’re not just a thrift store,” Spiller said. “We do a lot for the community. We get people from all over the place come through our doors. There’s this whole group of people who love thrifting. When they come in here, we’ll answer their questions. We’re ambassadors for the community.”
Spiller keeps a list of local restaurants and services that visitors frequently ask about so she can point them in the right direction.
“We really try to support the community and each other,” Spiller said. “If somebody comes in this store and is looking for something particular and I don’t have it, I’ll send them to one of the other thrift stores.”
In Harmony and Good Neighbor aren’t the only local thrift stores that support nonprofits. Others include (but are not limited to):
• Friends of the Library Thrift Store, 105 W. Pecan in Burnet, which supports the Herman Brown Free Library;
• Marble Falls Library Thrift Store, 300 Ave. J, which supports the Marble Falls Public Library;
• Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church Thrift Store, 507 Buchanan Drive in Burnet, which supports the Liturgical resources of the church;
• Bertram Library Thrift Store, 163 E. Vaughan in Bertram, which supports the Bertram Public Library.
Some people are still discovering the local thrift stores.
Shirley LaBounty, the Good Neighbor Thrift Store manager, said she still has people come in and tell her they never knew the store existed.
“And then they’re amazed at how big it is,” LaBounty said.
LaBounty runs daily deals for customers. And many thrift stores such as In Harmony and Good Neighbor accept debit and credit cards as well as cash and checks.
Good Neighbor has even added a Facebook page to help promote the thrift store at www.facebook.com/goodneighborthrift.
Spiller knows Goodwill offers services she can’t provide, whether its job training or electronics recycling. But she hopes people remember the local thrift stores that have been a part of the community for many years and help keep local nonprofit organizations up and running.
“I don’t know what to expect,” she said. “But we have a loyal customer base, and I think they’ll keep supporting us.”
Lahmon hopes so. With a big part of the Highland Lakes Family Crisis Center’s budget relying on Good Neighbor Thrift Store, she doesn’t know what it will mean for client services if people don’t keep frequenting the shop.
“I know people are going to shop at Goodwill,” she said. “But I don’t want people to forget we’re here and we continue to serve people.”