By Felicia Carter If you travel to Mt. Vernon, KY and walk into the Grateful Threadz thrift store, you can expect to be greeted as soon as you walk through the door. Since 2008, the staff and volunteers have been building an environment that thrives off of building relationships. There are many services offered to the families of Rockcastle County by Grateful Threadz. Vouchers are provided for families that experience emergency situations, such as loss of a home due to fire, flood, or other natural disasters. This also opens the door to other CAP programs, where the staff can then refer those families in crisis to other programs and agencies for additional assistance. But anyone can shop at Grateful Threadz; it is open to the public and draws customers from all over the county, as well as visitors from various parts of Kentucky and even other parts of the nation. “It usually starts with simply exchanging pleasantries, discussing the weather, and moves right into talking about their families. Eventually we’ll find ourselves arranging outfits that we agree would look good together,” Carolyn Lindsey, manager of the Grateful Threadz thrift store, explains about the importance of getting to know the participants. “The relationships we build are what keep the participants coming back.” As a result, participants have grown to love the level of interaction that comes along with shopping there – so much so, in fact, that there are a handful of people who come in every single day. Lindsey says she will ask, “Are you going to buy anything today?” And they’ll say, “Nope, just came in to visit!” Christian Appalachian Project (CAP) has always had thrift stores available to the public, but it was not until 2008 that the current store received the permanent moniker, “Grateful Threadz.” Prior to Grateful Threadz, CAP’s thrift stores were always referred to as “The Attic of [insert name of town].” When Reverend Beiting established the first thrift store, his focus was not any different than today – he made sure to build relationships with every person who walked through the front door. The experiences and stories of each customer were unique, and Reverend Beiting treated them as such. This is something that is still practiced today. Lindsey is overflowing with the stories of customers and participants whom she has served at the thrift store over the years. One such story is that of Mary, who had just learned that a very close family member passed away. She went to Grateful Threadz, was greeted by a smiling face, and explained through tears that she did not have anything to wear to the funeral. After a few moments of consoling and comforting, the staff members went on the search for something that would be perfect. Mary found a dress donated by the Sassy Fox, an upscale consignment shop in Lexington, KY, that still had the $150.00 price tag attached; Grateful Threadz had it priced for $3.00. Mary was elated that she was able to afford something that was so nice. This relieved a lot of the stress that she had been feeling in the midst of her loss. And then there is the story of Alex, a student who was about to experience high school for the first time. She made her way into Grateful Threadz with her father for back-to-school shopping and immediately found a few items that she loved. Money is very tight is Alex’s family, so her father set a limit on what she could spend. One of the volunteers noticed the situation and approached Alex. “You know, our quarter sale starts tomorrow. That’s where most items in the store are a quarter. However, our policy states that we cannot hold any items back. So today, the quarter sale applies to you,” she explained. Alex’s eye lit up. She was able to walk out of the store that day with her head held high and a stack of clothes in which she could proudly begin her first day of high school. The majority of staff that makes up the Grateful Threadz is community volunteers. These are participants particularly drawn to the familial atmosphere of the store, many of whom will often volunteer two or more times a week. Lindsey states that she has not seen a volunteer come through that has not been affected by the experience. Volunteers are always needed, as they are an intricate part to help keep the program running as successfully as it does. “If it weren’t for the volunteers, I don’t know how we would do it,” Lindsey explains. The amount of work that the volunteers and employees put into making the clothes look presentable is extraordinary. Every piece of clothing that comes through the store is steamed and then hung on the racks to be purchased. Lindsey continues, “We do it out of respect for the participants.” In conjunction with the community volunteers, there are also people who are volunteering for other, very practical, reasons, including those who are fulfilling a requirement in order to keep their KTAP (Kentucky Transitional Assistance Program) benefits. The thrift store also provides retail job training that could be used to help expand job prospects for those who volunteer. Building an environment focused on individuals rather than a just a broad population or people group is how the relationships thrive with participants at Grateful Threadz. Lindsey puts it very candidly: “I think that is at the heart of all CAP programs--building these strong relationships with the participants.” Interested in learning more about how YOU can support Grateful Threadz thrift store? For more information, please call 866.270.4CAP (4227) to find out exactly how you can help!