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Rescue Mission Board Approves Major Thrift Restructuring Plan

Thrift Store 2The Rescue Mission Executive Board has unanimously approved a plan to streamline the Mission’s Industrial Division in order to better serve shelter guests and community customers of its thrift stores.

After more than a year of study that has included surveys, data collection, and input from staff, board members, and members of the community, the final plan was presented to and approved by the board this afternoon.

On September 6th, the Mission will close its 4th Street Thrift Store, enabling an expanded donation center. It will still offer limited shopping on Saturday mornings during the hours of Manna Mission Ministry, the weekly grocery box distribution that takes place between 8:00 and 10:00a.m. In addition, it will continue to provide free clothing on site as needed for those receiving residential Rescue Mission services.

Outside of the Saturday morning hours, customers who currently shop with vouchers at the 4th Street store will now be able to use those vouchers at the Mission’s newest store, 460 Thrift, which opened in April of 2014 on Orange Avenue.

“I’m pleased that my neighbors here in Southeast Roanoke will now have the opportunity to use their shopping vouchers at the new 460 Thrift store where there is an expanded selection,” said Board member Brenda Allen. “Plus, the change will also reduce the amount of vehicle traffic on 4th Street.”

Thrift StoreThe value of voucher sales (merchandise given away free) at the 4th Street store totaled nearly $41,000 just in the first six months of this year. That amounts to 11% of all units sold between the Mission’s three thrift stores.

“The Rescue Mission’s 4th Street Thrift store is the only one in the region that daily gives away free clothing and shoes to people in need,” says Mission CEO Joy Sylvester-Johnson. “Our first goal is to help people exit homelessness, and any service we can provide to keep them from becoming homeless in the first place is one that we will continue. No services of any kind will be lost in this transition. In fact, services will be vastly improved.”

Board member Nathan Kerr expects paying customers will also enjoy the change, especially with the convenience of having so many other businesses in the vicinity of the 460 store. “460 Thrift is located in the Ivy Ridge shopping center with other popular retailers that are attractive to anyone, whether you’re bargain shopping or not, so it can be more of a one-stop shopping experience.”

“I think folks will enjoy the expanded selection of merchandise in a much larger space,” said Board member George Kegley. “460 Thrift is 3000 square feet larger than the 4th Street operation, it’s on the bus line so transportation should not be an issue, and an added bonus is that it’s open longer hours than the 4th Street store.”

The Rescue Mission plans to maintain and improve its donation drop-off center at the 4th Street location even after the store closes. Sylvester-Johnson says the changes will enable workers to sort and process donated thrift items more efficiently, in addition to improving the Mission’s recycling operations.

“We are blessed with generous donations from people throughout the Roanoke Valley,” remarked Leslie Littlefield, the Mission’s Director of Industry. “When things come in that we are unable to sell in our thrift stores or use at the Mission, we always try to find some other market for them. Last year we recycled nearly half a million pounds of goods. We’ve been known to bring in close to $10,000 a month on the sale of baled rags that are shipped overseas. We don’t let anything go to waste.”

Jen Brothers, President of the Rescue Mission Board applauds the industry restructuring. “A challenge for all non-profits is sustainability,” she said. “In order to thrive, organizations need to adapt to a changing environment. Flexible, creative thinking is essential when faced with a challenge, and time and time again, the Rescue Mission rises to the occasion. This change provides more efficiency, a better shopping experience, no employee losses, and, most importantly, an increased capacity to help those in need.”

“The Rescue Mission does not accept any government funding; our $5M budget is raised primarily through donations from individuals, corporations, churches, and other organizations, as well as through these earned income practices,” says Sylvester-Johnson. “By streamlining our industry division in this way, we better position our earned income practices to grow into a reliable, continuous revenue stream directly supporting families in crisis.”

 For more information about the Rescue Mission, please visit, or call (540) 343-7227.

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