Accessible and affordable / Christmas is everyday at Damascus House

Monroe resident Mina Loturco stops by the Damascus home resale store once a week to shop.
Volunteer Ron Fear decorates a table tree with red bulbs.  The retired school counselor and former flower shop owner spends most of his time recycling and creating wreaths and centrepieces for sale.
Duane Bosenbark carefully wraps ceramic plates for a customer.  The LaSalle resident volunteers at Damascus House Resale Shop.
Sally Bosenbark of LaSalle works in a back room sorting items and inspecting clothing before anything is assessed and placed in the showroom.
Store manager Michelle Neiswender sorts the bags and boxes of donated items.  “Every day is like Christmas!  is how Neiswender describes the work at Damascus House Resale Shop, 212 Smith St.

“Every day is like Christmas!” This is how Michelle Neiswender describes her work at Dasmascus House Resale Shop, 212 Smith St.

“We receive donations every day and every bag or box we open has some kind of surprise for us. As the holidays approach, we will have deliveries throughout the day and each donation will tell its own story, ”she said. “Maybe it’s someone who is moving and had to downsize or it’s a loved one who has passed away and the family wants to donate their items to a good cause.”

Neiswender, a Spring Arbor University graduate student in the social work program, runs the thrift store and all proceeds support Philadelphia House, a homeless men’s shelter in Monroe.

Open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, the store offers essentials like clothing, furniture and housewares at affordable prices.

Items, like clothing, are categorized into sections. One corner of the store is dedicated to children’s items like toys and dolls. In another section of the store is a library where the books are stored by the author.

“I got involved in this work because my family has always been involved in helping others. My late grandmother, Jewell Bosenbark, still helped at church, ”said Neiswender. “My parents have always been involved in helping others in the community by coaching softball teams to host women’s Bible study groups.”

Millard and Jimmie Neiswender, Michelle’s parents, run a non-profit organization called Hotline to God Ministries which unites Damascus House and Philadelphia House.

Many of the store’s customers are local, such as Mina Loturco, a Monroe resident, who stops by once a week to shop. Carleton volunteer Jenni Couturier was a loyal customer before she started volunteering two years ago.

“What I love about this place is that it’s accessible and affordable for everyone,” Couturier said. “It gives back to the community and for me volunteering is the best way for me to give back. “

All Damascus House workers are volunteers, including Neiswender’s uncle and aunt, Duane and Sally Bosenbark from LaSalle.

Duane greets customers and takes care of the counter while Sally works in the back room sorting items and inspecting clothing before anything is appraised and placed in the showroom.

Ron Fear, a resident of Monroe, recently started volunteering at the store. The retired school counselor and former flower shop owner spends most of his time creating in one of the back rooms.

“I saw a huge room that they call the ‘flower room’ and I said, ‘I could sort this room and collect what I can to make Christmas wreaths and flower arrangements'”, said declared Fear. “Now, starting next week, I’m going to start doing wreaths and spring arrangements. I spend the winters in the south, so I have to prepare the spring items in advance for the store.

By recycling and reusing the items that were donated, Fear estimates that he made 50 Christmas wreaths and 30 table arrangements for the store to sell.

“I think the benefits of volunteering are being able to give back to my community. Most of my time is spent in the back in the flower room but I take breaks to walk past the store to say hello to customers, ”he said. “A lot of people come in every day for you to get to know the customers. Seeing people come in and see what staples they buy to survive gives you a warm feeling that the store is helping these people. That’s not to say all the buyers are in need, about half of the other group of buyers are just smart buyers and find tons of great deals.

“Each Monroe thrift store is unique in the way it supports the community with its particular products. The House of Damascus has been in the community for over 45 years supporting those in need with a smile and a loving heart, ”added Neiswender. “We are also working with about 15 other organizations in Monroe County to support those in need.”

The 45-year-old said shopping at thrift stores not only benefits the community, but is also enjoyable.

“Customers should indulge in thrift store shopping as it supports your community, but a person can find very unique items or brand new items,” she added. “It’s fun to seek and find treasures. Take the time to look around, you never know what you will find.

Lisa Vidaurri Bowling is a contributor to The Monroe News.

Damascus House Resale Shop

Site: 212 Smith Street

Services: The store offers basic items like clothing, furniture and household items at affordable prices. All proceeds support Philadelphia House, a homeless men’s shelter in Monroe.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays


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