Resale shop supports Barrington parish’s outreach efforts

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Resale shop supports Barrington parish’s outreach efforts

Volunteers sort through and price items at the House of Hope Resale shop in located 955 S. Rand Road, in the Deerfield Commons Retail Center, Lake Zurich on July 24, 2023. The resale shop is the main source of funding for Project Hope's support services. Project Hope is St. Anne Barrington's local community outreach ministry. The resale shop serves a wide range of customers, from serious collectors to bargain-hunting browsers to Project Hope clients. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The House of Hope Resale shop is located at 955 S. Rand Road, in the Deerfield Commons Retail Center, Lake Zurich. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Peggy Houlihan, Mary DePinto and Lou O'Brien sort through items recently donated in the intake room. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Volunteers sort through and make selections for items that will be for sale in the resale shop. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Dolores Campagna inspects donated Christmas clothing. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
George Fotos organizes toys that will make their way to the main floor. Volunteers put out new items daily as space becomes available. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Ellen Sandkam prices stationery and Cathy Grain prices shoes at their work stations. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Donna Trenda, a retired librarian, sorts through books. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The toy section is full of stuffed animals and games. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bags of Legos hang on a rack in the children’s section. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Some unique items on display in the shop. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Melissa McNulty hangs clothes that were donated. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Anna Ensign rings up Mary McDade who bought some items in the shop. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Many sets of dishes are on the shelves in the store. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Stacks of pillows have a place in the shop. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A selection of dishes and valuables has a place at the shop. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Walls of paintings and photographs are on display to purchase at a reasonable rate. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A sports and family fun section also has a place in the shop. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Shoppers at House of Hope Resale in Lake Zurich come looking for everything from vintage high-end furniture and designer clothing to inexpensive craft and school supplies. When they find something to buy, they are helping their neighbors in need access everything from food and shelter to transportation, said Sue Olafson.

Olafson, director of St. Anne Parish’s Hope Ministries, said the shop will provide more than $500,000 to the parish’s efforts to care for people this year. In its 35-year history, it has given more than $6 million back to the Barrington-area community.

That money helps fund the Hope Ministries Food Pantry on the campus of St. Anne in Barrington, a mobile food pantry that serves families who live within the Barrington and Carpentersville school districts, and provides help for families with shelter, transportation, utility, clothing and medical costs, as well are providing grants to other community organizations.

“To me, it’s like our local Catholic Charities,” said Father Bernie Pietrzak, St. Anne’s pastor. “It allows our parish to participate in the corporal works of mercy.”

Pietrzak is grateful that the parish can offer so much help to people, he said.

“I had a young couple come in who had lost a child, and they couldn’t afford the burial,” he said. “To be able to say, ‘We’ll take care of it.’ That’s a pastor’s dream.”

At the same time, the shop offers a sense of community to its more than 200 volunteers, who take in, sort, price and stage donations in departments. The ministry also has four full-time and one part-time paid employee.

While the store is open for shoppers from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, it was buzzing with volunteers on a Monday morning in July. A crew of men waited in front for the cars that pulled up to drop off donations, pulling bags of clothing, small appliances and, in one case, an artificial plant from trunks and cargo areas.

Inside, donations were sorted by department, where more volunteers would price them and decide how and when to stage them on the sales floor, Olafson said.

Among the volunteers were Peggy and Bob Sobolewski, who started volunteering in 1989, when St. Anne Parish held an annual garage sale to fund Project Hope, started by School Sister of St. Francis Lorraine Menheer.

“Sister Lorraine asked me to do the signage for the garage sale one year,” Peggy Sobolewski said. “The next year I was in charge of the whole thing.”

The garage sale eventually became a small storefront resale shop in downtown Barrington, which in 2015 moved to a large space at 955 S. Rand Road in Lake Zurich. It is in a strip mall owned by John Sfire, a deacon at St. Francis de Sales Parish in Lake Zurich, who has also been supportive of the ministry.

The most recent addition was a separate furniture showroom, in the same strip mall but on the other side of an Illinois Secretary of State facility.

Peggy Soboloweski said she is the “head of many departments, including some accessories and holiday goods, such as Halloween and Christmas decorations.” Lots of people donate accessories when they clean out their closets, she said.

Bob, her husband, said, “I’m just the intake guy,” but that hasn’t stopped him from doing a little informal evangelization, encouraging donors to make time to pay attention to their faith.

“You can work for money or you can work for God,” Bob Sobolewski said. “Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep,’ so I’m here.”

Susan Doody, department head for “a portion of accessories, the part that includes scarves and belts,” said she has learned a lot about identifying designer scarves over the years. One week, she said, four ostensibly Hermes scarves were donated; all turned out to be knock-offs. It is her job to identify the genuine designer products and price them accordingly.

That can take some time, she said. While she spends three or four hours at the shop each Monday making sure her area is adequately stocked, she can spend three or four times as many hours researching and pricing goods.

“I knew a little bit about scarves before because I’ve always been a scarf person,” said Doody, who started volunteering at the store in 2007. “But I’ve learned a lot.”

She volunteers, she said, because that is how she was raised.

“I was raised in a family that volunteered,” she said. “I firmly believe that if you have the ability and the time, you owe it to do something to help someone. Here, everything we do benefits the community in some way.”

The volunteers also benefit from the community they have created, said Mary Bottie, a volunteer who directs the store with Olafson.

“I think there’s ministry within the ministry,” said Bottie who retired from a career at Motorola. “You’ve got a lot going on where people minister to one another.”

Bottie said that when she retired, she was waiting for a call from God to tell her what to do next. But she got impatient waiting, and her background was in business, so she checked out the resale shop, then still in Barrington.

Sister Lorraine asked her to sit at the Project Hope desk while she attended to other business one Tuesday, and “I sat there every Tuesday after that.”

Bottie said she enjoys seeing both sides of the enterprise, the resale shop where donations become income, and Project Hope, where the money funds the corporal works of mercy. It is greatly appreciated, according to one former client who is now a Project Hope volunteer.

The client, who asked to be called Elizabeth, said she did not know where to turn after a divorce left her on her own with young kids to raise and an ex-husband who rarely paid child support. Project Hope helped until she got back on her feet, she said.

“Sometimes I share with clients my history,” said Elizabeth, who started volunteering at Project Hope after she retired. “They are surprised. I always look tired, but I never look downtrodden. I appear to be a nicely dressed Barrington lady doing her service hours. People don’t think someone in their community, who looks like them, who they see at Jewel or in an office setting, is a member of the working poor.”

Organizers say the resale shop does well in part because it often gets high-quality donations from affluent residents of the Barrington area, including whole housefuls that might be donated after a death in a donor’s family, and because it has been able to maintain a large and committed volunteer group, not all of whom are parishioners. For some, Olafson said, it is their volunteer work at the store that introduced them to the parish.

“The volunteers all pretty much come in and know what they have to do,” she said, whether that is testing electric appliances, sorting yarn in the craft supplies area or setting up a new front-of-store display for back-to-school. The display includes school supplies, but also spirit wear for all the area high schools at bargain prices.

“We want people to see something new every time they come in,” Olafson said. “We want it to be fun.”


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