Celebrating 50 Years with Stories of MCC Sask at Work

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Value Village Thrift Stores - Saskatoon, SK.

MCCS 50 Years of Faith in Action: Thrift Shop Movement

In January of 1972, Linie Friesen, Susan Giesbrecht, Selma Loewen and Sara Stoesz gathered over tea in Altona, Manitoba. At the front of their minds was how to respond to a plea from MCC Material Aid Director John Hostetler who suggested, "What we need is a machine that will turn clothing into cash!"

This conversation over tea would lead to the birth of the MCC Thrift Shop Network, which in its first year saw four Shops spring up across Canada. Soon others sprang up in the US and five Canadian provinces.


Katie Bath behind the counter at
Village Green in the early years

The second shop opened in Saskatoon after a visit from Justina Berg of Manitoba, She talked with the Women's Auxiliary of Mennonite Central Committee on February 8, 1973. The result - the opening of the Mennonite Clothes Closet, later to become Village Green Thrift Shop. Some 27 years Saskatchewan opened the first Furniture only Thrift Shop, which continues to thrive today!


The Rosthern Clothes Basket in the Valley News

Rosthern would soon follow suit on October 26, 1976 when B.M. Friesen make a motion at a local meeting to "open a thrift store in Rosthern." Fred Peters, MCCS Executive Director was present to help establish a board. Notices were sent out to local Church bulletins about this new venture and Rosthern Clothes Basket became its name.

The excitement of the time was summarized in Linda Riekman's history of the Clothes Basket, A Basket of Loaves and Fishes, as she stated, " Again and again, we scrubbed, scoured and polished, and all the while our ears sang and overflowed with gratefulness to the donors, and to God." They were to open their doors to the public on November 9, 1976 - just two short weeks after the initial motion.
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In the tiny farming community of Herbert with a long history of selling Self Help Crafts, a board was formed in 1976 with directors from Herbert Mennonite Brethren Church, Herbert Conference, the Main Centre Mennonite Brethren Church and the Gouldtown Church. Over the years, the steady hand of the volunteers, would faithfully sort, clean and stock the Store, always mindful to send as much money to MCCS for the local and international work.

Today Anissa Forrest and her team of volunteers carry on the work. Signing on to manage the Thrift Store in a volunteer capacity in 2013, Anissa's joy, determination and servant-heart have all been a piece of the puzzle that has seen the Shop continue to grow sales, and even start to plan a possible expansion in the near future!


Swift Current was not too long in starting a Thrift Shop of their own. At a meeting of twenty people on September 16, 1977 a steering committee was formed. March 1, 1978 saw the doors of the MCC Clothes Closet in Swift Current open. In 1984 the name was changed to MCC Gift & Thrift and has continued to send valuable financial resources for over 36 years. Even greater joy was experienced in May 2009, with the opening of a Furniture Store just a few blocks away from the Clothing Store.


Other Saskatchewan communities were not far behind when on October 1, 1984 at the Annual Congregational Meeting of the Osler Mennonite Church a Board was formed which was to include Martensville Mennonite Mission, Warman Mennonite Conference, St. John's Lutheran, Warman, Osler Mennonite Conference and five Bergthaler Churches to start the Warman Thrift Shop.


The first recorded Board Meeting in Lanigan was held September 24, 1982. It consisted of 2 members from five Mennonite churches - Drake North Star Mennonite, Lanigan Christian Fellowship Church, Bethany Mennonite Church, Philadelphia Mennonite Brethren Church, and Sharon Mennonite Church. Claire Ewert Fisher, now the MCCS Executive Director served as a driving force behind this initiative and served as the first Manager! Lanigan's successful Clothing Store expanded to include a furniture store purchased in 2000.

The story of the Thrift Shops has been one that has taken many turns throughout the years, the great levels of excitement upon opening has remained, even in the midst of growing demands. Stores have opened, and some have come to an end. Even so, the passion for seeing used goods repurposed and kept out of the landfill continues.

John Kurylyk - volunteer at Warman Thrift store

This passion is exemplified in the story of a faithful volunteer named John Kurylyk from the Warman Thrift Shop. Upon visiting the Shop, a person is sure to find John in the back, sitting in his usual spot with a pair of scissors in one hand and the leg of a pair of jeans (otherwise unusable) in the other. Depending on the day, his attention may be solely focussed on carefully leading the scissors around the black outline of a square patch, or you may receive the gift of John sharing of his time at the Star Phoenix and his adventures there! Over the years, John has cut and assembled hundreds, if not thousands of bundles of jean patches for sale. Each person God has brought to serve at a Shop has served in such personal and giving ways.

There have been many highlights over the years; as business has boomed, changes in running the Shops have been experienced - the inclusion of debit machines, rotation schedules, donations of EXCESS to Friendship Inn, The Bridge, Teen Challenge, local families in need, meeting CRA regulations, all have served to keep staff and volunteers on their toes!

Thousands of blankets sewn by faithful volunteers have been sent on to MCCS. Every Thursday in Lanigan and Warman, men and women from the local communities gather at their local Thrift Shop and sew, tie and mend so that others in need may experience the warm comfort of a blanket, and the knowledge that someone cares greatly.

The Shops have had to process many ethical questions over the years: Sell Hallowe'en items or not? What about ashtrays? What movies and books are "OK" to profit f rom? All of this proves that there truly is never a dull day in a Thrift Shop!

Karen Enns, Sophia Kutsiuruba, and Andy Arthur - in management - learning Thrift
[Karen Enns, Sophia Kutsiuruba, Andy Arthur - Current Managers at the Village Green Thrift Store - celebrating a new generation of people becoming involved with Thrift.]

Annually, the Thrift Shops in Saskatchewan, through the hard work and dedication of all the staff and over four hundred volunteers, contribute approximately 20% of all MCCS' revenue. In the last fiscal year, donations from Thrift amounted to approximately $692,000! Our future is full of excitement and new adventures! 2014 will see the Lanigan store build a new Shop, combining their furniture and clothing stores under one roof. One of these days soon, we will accomplish our goal of forwarding a million dollars to MCC, every day we are getting closer! New people are coming on board, and the Network continues to grow. . . . Most importantly however, in all of it we say, to God be the glory!

Illustrative of many Mennonite women, when the call came out for Thrift Store items, Maria Buhler would empty the house of excess goods and join blanket-making and layette-making groups, saying, "These are things I can do too!"

Back to MCCS's 50th Anniversary - index Or; Jan: IVEP | Feb: Thrift Shop Movement | Mar: Canadian Foodgrains Bank| Apr: Ten Thousand Villages | May: Restorative Justice | June: Relief Sale | July: Refugee Assistance | Aug: Aboriginal Neighbours (Historical overview) | Sept: Governance | Oct: Music Gala

[last updated - Dec/23/2021]
Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan

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Saskatoon, SK, S7K 7H8
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