Thrift store awards local help

Tanja Vass/Special to the Fort Leavenworth lamp

The Fort Leavenworth Thrift Shop offers Community Assistance Grants to give store profits back to the community. The application deadline is February 28.

Being part of a military community like Fort Leavenworth, for many families, means being ready to move into the next duty station at a moment’s notice. Donating items to the Thrift Shop that don’t make it through the PCS season is one way people can help give back to the community.

At the Fort Leavenworth Thrift Shop, the benefits to the community don’t end with finding a new home for some used items. Profits from the store are funneled back into Fort Leavenworth and the surrounding community through Community Assistance Grants awarded through the store’s welfare program.

The Fort Leavenworth Thrift Shop has been in business for many years. Thrift Shop Manager Mary Kendall said she attributes the store’s success to the dedicated volunteers and employees.

“We survived COVID and that goes to show you what kind of staff we have here.”

Kendall herself has worked at the store for decades and can’t remember a time when the welfare program didn’t exist.

The Fort Leavenworth Thrift Shop, 1025 Sheridan Drive, is stocked with a variety of items. Staff said the store usually receives the most donations in the middle of the spring PCS season, but they said they appreciate the rush because it usually means more money to help local organizations through the Thrift Shop’s Welfare Program. Photo by Tanja Vass/Special to the Fort Leavenworth lamp

“During (the pandemic) — because the thrift store was closed for quite a long time, and then when we reopened it was on a very limited basis — we had to suspend our welfare program for a year, so last year (was) the first year we got back to it and not all the organizations realized we were doing it,” said Fort Leavenworth Thrift Shop Welfare Chairman Sue Porter. “Last year (we had) 14 organizations, but in the past we’ve probably had 25.”

Porter said she suspects the store will receive more applications this year.

The welfare program awards grants to area organizations that serve the military and military family members. The Senior Transportation Program, Saint Vincent Clinic and the Army Community Service’s food stamp program are among several other organizations that have benefited from the grants.

The staff ask that the applications be picked up in person at the thrift store, so that applicants can see what the store has to offer.

“We want them to see what our store is and maybe realize they can shop here, too,” Porter said.

The application form asks for a description of how the funds would be used, the total cost of the project, and how the project will benefit the military community at Fort Leavenworth.

Once the applications are processed, Porter reviews the proposals with a committee of volunteers who work together to determine how best to distribute the money.

Assistant Thrift Shop Manager Astrid Davis rings up camping chairs for friends Tobias McConnell and Blaise Timmons Jan. 17 at the Fort Leavenworth Thrift Shop. The Thrift Shop awards Community Assistance Grants using money earned through Thrift Shop sales. Grant applications are currently available to eligible organizations and are due by February 28. Photo by Tanja Vass/Special to the Fort Leavenworth lamp

“We’re not always able to give what they ask for, but usually we try to give to pretty much all of the organizations,” Porter said.

From there, the committee meets with the welfare program board for final approval.

“We’ve had some good years and some bad years. I think one of our best years, we had something like $45,000 that we gave to the community, and when we moved here (to 1025 Sheridan Drive), we had to revamp and start over, Kendall said.

Four years ago, the Thrift Shop moved from the Trolley Station’s flood-prone basement to 1025 Sheridan Drive by Envision near Sherman Army Airfield. According to Kendall, the store is about a quarter the size of the previous location, but the quality of the merchandise has remained the same.

“With the price of things out there today, and the kids’ clothes and toys, people are so smart to come here and get it,” Kendall said. “It’s just a great feeling when you can make someone’s day, whether through a big thing or a small thing.”

Applications for Fort Leavenworth Thrift Shop’s Community Assistance Grants are currently available in store and must be submitted in person or mailed to Fort Leavenworth Thrift Shop, PO Box 3003, Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027 by February 28th. The store is open 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday and the first Saturday of each month. Call 913-651-6768 for more information.

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