SAM TAN VALLEY -- Redeemed Threads may be limited to a compact space between four walls, but the thrift store’s mission is limitless.
The thrift store is run by the Compassion Care Center, a community and family resource office created to connect Arizonans with information, assistance and other local nonprofits or government agencies in San Tan Valley.
The center is overseen by Compassion Connect Arizona and is the result of a team effort between a grouping of local churches and community organizations.
Though it may have started in 2016, the center’s origins go much further back. Initially rooted in Compassion Queen Creek — a one-day clinic providing free health services such as medical, dental and vision to area residents — the care center was founded not long after event organizers realized that there was significant need within the Queen Creek and San Tan Valley areas despite the communities’ outwardly wealthy appearances.
Through Compassion Queen Creek, organizers were made aware that the community as a whole was facing a lack of services designed to provide assistance for those facing turbulent personal or financial circumstances.
“We were kind of in a donut hole,” said Jennelle Esquivel, regional director of Compassion Connect Arizona. “There are services all the way around us, but, in San Tan Valley itself, we didn’t have services. There were no organizations that helped with utility assistance ...or eviction prevention or something like that.”
Compassion Care is a multiservice agency that serves young children, women, families and seniors — offering job services, counseling and parenting classes among a host of other options. The center also partners with other agencies to provide behavioral health and early childhood development services.
“We really want to (address) all the things that a family is facing rather than just help them survive crisis to crisis,” Esquivel said.
While members of the general public are welcome to shop at Redeemed Threads, the thrift store also serves as an extension to the center’s care closet, where women and children in need can also access clothing.
The store accepts donated items such as lightly used clothing, housewares and furniture.
Redeemed Threads closed to shoppers amid the pandemic, but it was open to Compassion Care clients in need of clothing or housewares. Esquivel noted that the store reopened to the public in August and is currently operating on limited hours from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday.
But given the store’s lengthy closure to members of the public, the thrift shop is currently only accepting clothing donations.
The store particularly focuses on stocking women’s clothing, to tailor to the shop’s predominant customers and also to have a wide assortment of clothing for women who may find themselves in need of assistance because of various circumstances, Esquivel said. “We always try to have a wide assortment so that in those circumstances we are able to help someone immediately with those things before they even go to a shelter, so they don’t go to a shelter without that stuff.”
The thrift store helps to raise money that is funneled directly back into providing programs and services at the Compassion Care center, with 100% of the proceeds collected going to support the center’s mission. The store sees about 300 shoppers per month.
On occasion, Compassion Care clients are given vouchers for the thrift store, which they can then use to purchase items they might need. Esquivel estimates that the amount of vouchers given out in a month is nearly equal to the amount of customers the store attracts.
“It’s almost even,” she said. “We give away about what we bring in.”
But beyond being a place where shoppers and clients alike can find new value in donated items, for many, Redeemed Threads is also a place that is synonymous with new beginnings.
According to Esquivel, the thrift store has served as a place where some clients can volunteer to get acclimated, or in some cases reacclimated, with the workplace.
“Sometimes people are just not employable at the time they come to us,” she said. “There’s a lot of work that has to be done to help get them to that place.”
The process, she said, requires Compassion Care to help clients access resources, work with case managers, courts and behavioral health specialists, help improve credit scores and offer letters of recommendation or other assistance that can help them become much more attractive to potential employers. However, the task also encompasses helping clients gain the necessary skills they need to be successful in the workplace.
For some, volunteering at Redeemed Threads has been just the opportunity they needed to turn things around.
Esquivel recalls one woman who volunteered at the thrift store for a year while the center helped work out some challenges that barred her from successfully entering the workforce.
“Once she got employed, she was able to get into her own place, and it’s been three years now that she’s been employed,” she said. “She’s kept the same employer, but she’s also promoted within that organization. And she is just now going through the process of buying her own house. Prior to that she had been homeless for six years.”
Thrift stores are generally thought of as places where items that are no longer wanted or used by their original owners can potentially find new owners and new purposes. The idea of taking something that someone believes no longer has value and rediscovering the value in it is where Redeemed Threads gets its name, Esquivel said.
The principle, however, extends far beyond merchandise sold at the store.
“Many of our participants feel that they don’t have value,” said Esquivel. “The whole purpose of our organization is to show them that you’re not right in thinking that you no longer have value. You have great worth to the community and to your family.”
For Esquivel and the Compassion Care Center, the goal is to help every individual who comes to the organization get reacquainted with that value. Among the ways the organization seeks to achieve that objective is through their work with the center’s youth program.
The center works with area youths to repurpose some of the items that are brought into Redeemed Threads. The projects have run the gamut from making aprons out of donated men’s dress shirts to turning some donated items into pottery or jewelry. The purpose behind the program is to help young girls, ages 9-15, build skills that they can fall back on to create and sell similar items when they get older if the need ever arises.
The program, Esquivel noted, often incites discussion about redemption.
“It’s a great way to talk to our youth about the story of redemption and how just because one person thinks something doesn’t have value, it doesn’t mean that it’s not valuable anymore,” she said.
Redeemed Threads is located at 5418 E. Skyline Drive in San Tan Valley. PW