Kensington: Circle Thrift Provides the Community with More Than Discounted Clothes

Monica Farrell looked for books to bring back to her students at Horatio B School.
Monica Farrell looked for books to bring back to her students at Horatio B School.

Teachers in Philadelphia are finding alternative ways to supplement school supplies for their classrooms amidst the district budget cuts.

Thrift stores like Circle Thrift, located at 2233 Frankford Ave., carry used and discounted wares that have been donated by the public. The store will take in and sell men’s, women’s and children’s clothes, furniture, small appliances, housewares, and books and toys for kids.

Educators like Hackett Horatio B School special education teacher Monica Farrell check local thrift stores every few weeks to purchase supplies for her classroom that are much cheaper and discounted than mainstream retailers.

“With the budget cuts, I come here to find supplies for my students that are much more affordable for me,” Farrell said. “I always have to grab a few toys and books for the kids to read too.”

Partnered with and funded by two separate organizations, the Circle of Hope Church and the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), Circle Thrift started six years ago with the mission to provide the surrounding urban area with hope for the 21st century. Since the store’s opening it has not only provided teachers with school supplies, but it also strives to serve the local community with inexpensive clothing, job opportunities and building and keeping relationships with the people and businesses in the Kensington and Fishtown area.

The store is employed by some paid employees, but a lot of the help comes from volunteers, people serving court mandated community service and individuals who are out of a full-time job on medical leave. Everything found in the store is priced very low, but it is through donations from the public and the Mennonite Central Committee that keeps the shelves fully stocked and the store open. Part of the proceeds made goes back to MCC who work worldwide providing hunger, water and disaster relief as well as education on HIV and AIDS and how to create sustainable communities.

“We are a non-profit organization so all of our proceeds either go back into the business such as paying the staff or paying bills for building maintenance,” Frankford store manager Bess Gerig said. “The rest of it goes to different community organizations, like urban gardens, after school programs and different holiday programs.”

Behind the store’s counter there is a list of all the organizations within the community that Circle Thrift has helped out. Some of them include Rock to the Future and NKCDC. Circle Thrift is also part of the Good Business Consortium that is comprised of five local businesses, Circle Thrift, Pizza Brain, Schummer’s Auto Repair, Leotah’s Place and Bright Common Architecture. The purpose of the Business Consortium is for neighboring business to help each other out as they get settled and started.

“We are part of the good business initiative, so the goal is to raise money for other people to start businesses. So far we have only helped with the new coffee place in town, Leotah’s Place,” employee Nate Wissler said.

Through everything it provides, Circle Thrift is true to its name in creating a circle of personal and professional relationships with local neighbors and businesses. Through its proceeds it is able to help neighboring businesses as well as providing funding to the worldwide causes that MCC helps out with. Apart from the major hand it has in helping the local community grow, it also serves as what it is set up to do, take in local unwanted goods and re-sell them back to community members who need them.

“I like this place more than others because you can tell they look and pick through their stuff. There’s no stains or holes and they have nicer and trendier stuff,” local shopper Shannon Verdieck said. “It’s good because it’s a convenient place to go, and I’ll probably be back later this week to see what is new.”

Employee checked out customers at Circle Thrift located at 2233 Frankford Ave.

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