Helping Hands Thrift Store supports needs across the county

Find basic needs and friendly faces, all for 50 cents
January 29, 2023 at 3:31 p.m.
Volunteer Irene Higbee, left, hangs donated clothes while Nancy Workman changes the music Jan. 28 at Helping Hands Thrift Shop near Nugent’s Corner.
Volunteer Irene Higbee, left, hangs donated clothes while Nancy Workman changes the music Jan. 28 at Helping Hands Thrift Shop near Nugent’s Corner. (Trenton Almgren-Davis/Cascadia Daily News)

Staff Reporter

Tucked away in the backyard of Immanuel Lutheran Church near Nugent’s Corner is Helping Hands Thrift Store, where every item is priced at 50 cents. 

Nancy Workman, a retired teacher and the store's founder, started it in September 2021 with the leftovers of a church garage sale. She knew there were needs in the community that had not been met, and this was her way of giving back. 

photo  Helping Hands Thrift Shop opened in an unused building behind Immanuel Lutheran Church as a way to provide affordable goods and clothes to the community. The thrift store is open Saturdays from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. (Trenton Almgren-Davis/Cascadia Daily News)  

“In my mind, it’s what is needed for the people,” Workman said. “I’m not here to make money. None of us are making money.” 

Workman has six volunteers that help her run the store, which has almost zero expenses since the building is owned by the church. The money they do make is given to Mount Baker School District to support homeless students. 

She said they made $5,500 in their first year, all with just 50-cent items. 

“Some people come in and pay 50 cents and are thrilled to donate an extra 50 cents, or some people will donate $20 for three items,” she said. 

Christina Ortiz, a family coordinator with Mount Baker School District who works to meet the needs of struggling students, said the thrift store has been a great resource for people in the community. 

She can connect students with the store to get clothes, hygiene products, blankets or anything else they might need for an affordable price.  

“Our goal is to be the bridge between home life and school life, and to give them tools and resources they need, so they can focus on school and have that as one of their priorities,” Ortiz said. 

But the store caters to more than just students. Since the floods in 2021, Workman said, she has seen an increased amount of need in the community. 

“We ask them not to pay if they tell me that their home was destroyed,” she said. “If they’re not working, I don’t charge them.” 

photo  Kenneth Breshears and his wife, Ivy Jo, not pictured, visit the thrift store two or three times a month to purchase blankets, which they hand out to homeless individuals in Whatcom County. (Trenton Almgren-Davis/Cascadia Daily News)  

One couple that came in, Kenneth and Ivy Jo Breshears, regularly purchase blankets from the store to give out to homeless individuals throughout the county. 

Workman said the store has brought many unexpected relationships into her life. She looks forward to Saturdays, and the potential to meet new people every week. 

This week, she met Alexandra Strong, a former professional cook who was buying a spice rack. Workman said she couldn’t wait to tell the man at her church who donated the item that it had sold.

“His wife passed away quite a while ago and he’s been getting rid of her stuff, and he said, ‘Do you really think anybody wants a spice rack?’” Workman said. 

While it was unanticipated when she first started, this is what Workman loves about running the store: new stories, new people and new connections, all through 50-cent items. 

As Workman looked around the room — filled with boxes full of clothes, shelves of DVDs and VHS tapes, and racks of dishes and appliances — she joked about having to close down when they run out of items to sell.

“I cannot remember a Saturday where we did not have donations here,” she said. 

Since more people have found out about the store, Workman said she has even had to start turning away donations. 

“I'm kind of picky now on what we take,” she said. “If people are in poverty, I want them to have nice things. I don’t want them to have stained things.” 

If donations are broken, stained or too big for her humble store space, she will take them to Goodwill or Habitat for Humanity. 

Workman and her volunteers hope to continue running the store from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays for as long as they can.

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