Special to the Citizen
Community organizations and families came together to celebrate Hillcrest Platte County’s 10 years of thrifting Saturday, Aug. 11.
Hillcrest Platte County hosted a community carnival at its South Platte location at 6501 N. Cosby Ave. The event featured food, music, games, giveaways thrift store discounts and appearances from KC Wolf, Kansas City area fire, police and sheriff departments and more.
Like the three shops’ daily operations, volunteers were highly involved in the event’s planning and operations so that the organization’s profits go directly to funding the same mission it funded when the first store was established 10 years ago.
In 2008, the first Hillcrest Platte County thrift shop location opened in Kansas City, Mo. The shop, at 6520 NW Prairie View Rd, was opened as a way to fund the mission of the already established Christian, non-profit transitional housing ministry — to provide the supportive services needed to help homeless individuals and families be self-sufficient.
Thrift operations from the original location moved to its current 33,000 square-foot facility in February 2018. The Prairie View location continues to be utilized by Hillcrest Platte County as a clearance outlet. In 2013, another thrift location opened in Platte City at 1305 Branch St.
The three shops operate in Platte County with all store profits directly supporting Hillcrest’s operations.
Examples of this funding can be seen in the organization’s 10 building structures made up of 44 transitional apartments and three young adult housing dorms. When the first shop opened, there were six building structures and 20 transitional apartments. Adults stay rent and utility free in the Hillcrest housing, in exchange for agreeing to work full-time and attending weekly classes aimed to help them successfully live independently.
Hillcrest Platte County has also partnered with local churches in an eviction prevention program that has stopped more than 200 evictions in three years.
The successes of the last 10 years are reasons to celebrate with the community, said Lou Warner, director of Hillcrest Thrift Operations.
Warner said the carnival was also a way to continue to bring awareness to the reality of homelessness in the community.
“We are constantly having to build awareness to redefine what homelessness is,” Warner said. “Everyone thinks it’s a guy down on the street corner (but) it’s your next-door neighbor. It’s not who you think it is. (Homelessness) is going on every day right here in our own backyard.”
Warner said thrift operations have helped graduating families furnish their new living quarters after moving from Hillcrest so they can stay financially on track.
“At one time or another you were close to getting into some real (financial) trouble,” Warner said. “Most of us can relate to that.”
Wanting to do something about homelessness is natural, Warner said, and volunteering at the thrift shops is a way to do that, he said.
Thrift operations wouldn’t run six days a week without the assistance of volunteers, Warner said.
In the last 10 years, more than 12,500 people have volunteered at the shops with 450 of those being core volunteers and 95 percent retirees. On a monthly basis, the shops process more than 75,000 donated items.
For 10 years, Angela Eastwood has brought her family to shop at the Kansas City Hillcrest Thrift Shop. She said that for her, attending the carnival and being a regular customer were ways to repay the organization for all the good it does in the community.
“We’ve been coming to this thrift store since the day it opened,” Eastwood said. “They give back, and it’s our way to help them give back by patronizing them.”