Good Samaritan Store continues 51-year tradition of service in Winamac

Good Samaritan Store continues 51-year tradition of service in Winamac

Near the entrance of the Good Samaritan Store is a large crucifix hanging on the wall. The crucifix—featuring a crucified Jesus and adorned with flowers—stands watch over the shop as it has for 51 years. According to Donna Nicholson of the Ladies of Charity, the group that runs the store, it is their most asked about item, though it is not for sale and never will be. Since the very beginning, the crucifix has been as much a part of the store’s foundation as the brick and mortar, symbolizing the store’s, and its volunteers’, faith-based mission to serve a community in need.

The Good Samaritan Store, located at 519 W Madison St in Winamac, Indiana, had a modest beginning. When a group of Catholic Mothers saw a need for assistance in the community in 1969, they opened a small store in a garage. The group, led by their faith and a call to serve community members struggling post-war to make ends meet, quickly found traction in Winamac by selling household goods, clothes, everyday necessities, and more at affordable prices.

thrift store

“Ever since the very beginning of this store back in 1969, this group has been a faith-led group who serves the community because of their faith and what they believe,” Nicholson said. “That crucifix has been our guide through life.”

The store has grown exponentially over its 51-year history. 11 years after the store was founded, the first addition was added on, doubling the store’s space as their donations from the community grew. A second addition was added in 1989, a third in 2014. Now, with the added land that was donated in 2016, the Good Samaritan Store has grown into a staple in Winamac, offering unique finds and community.

thrift store

While the Ladies of Charity spend most of their weeknights at the Good Samaritan Store sorting through donations, they are their busiest on Friday nights. The Ladies of Charity, made up of around 25 local women and men from Winamac, spend their Friday nights organizing and displaying items, preparing for the hundreds of shoppers to come the next morning; people from the community looking for basic household essentials, new clothes for the changing season, or maybe a one-of-a-kind treasure.

“Some of us are here seven days a week, volunteering our time just out of the goodness of our hearts,” Nicholson said. “We enjoy what we do.”

The store is divided up into different sections. Housed in the store’s first expansion from the original garage is where shoppers can find clothes, shoes, and accessories, all ranging in sizes and styles so it is easy for everyone to find something that speaks to them. Along the walls are pillows, bedding, linens, and more. Under the crucifix are Spring and Easter decorations. A glass case houses the store’s more special items like collectibles, vintage dishware, fine jewelry.

thrift store

The other side of store is where one can find everything from furniture, kitchenware, and medical accessories like wheelchairs, canes, and crutches. Children’s toys, books, and entertainment, and an eclectic assortment of knick-knacks fill in the rest of the space. Guests of all ages are sure to find something, whether they are a more seasoned thrifter looking for a great deal or just browsing for a new treasure to bring home.

“We try to utilize 100% of what comes in here in some way,” Nicholson said. “We will wash and clean things up to make it presentable, and we even bring home with us sometimes things that need a little extra TLC. Whatever we have in excess goes to different outsources and organizations who need it, so we do not waste any donations that come through our door.”

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While the store has been successful in offering the Winamac community an affordable place to shop, it is the store’s and the Ladies of Christ’s focus on ensuring a well-rounded support system for the community that sets them apart from other stores like it. 100% of all proceeds go to support local nonprofits and organizations, including the Pulaski County Food Pantry, the Eastern Pulaski Schools Lunch Assistance Program, Pulaski County Head Start, the Pack-A-Backpack Program, St. Peters Parish, Emmaus Mission Center, Pulaski County Health Care Center, Hickory Creek Healthcare Center, Parkview Haven Nursing Home, National Hurricane Disaster Relief, the Diocese of Lafayette Campaign, and more. They even helped to pay benefits for local persons with illnesses or who have been in accidents, maintenance at churches, utility assistance for families in need, and even medical assistance for those just leaving the hospital.

“We will get a call from our local CVS saying, ‘We have a patient here who needs help paying for their medication, can you help?’” said Rachel Morris, Director of Operations of the Fulton/Pulaski Pastorate, whose grandmother and great-grandmother, Dolores and Anna, started the store back in 1969. “When leaving the hospital, paying for those basic needs can be expensive, so we began offering that once we realized that need was there.”

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“Because of COVID-19, we’ve seen so much more need in our community for what we do and what we offer,” Nicholson said. “We not only see more than 200 people every week but also groups and organizations have seen a growing need for more help and more support from us.”

“Our sole purpose is to give back to the community two-fold,” a volunteer said. “We rely on donations from the community to make the money we need to then give back within the community. We’re not here to make money, we’re here to offer essential support directly to those who need it or to groups doing important service in the community.”

The Good Samaritan Store is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Masks are required and no children under the age of 13 are allowed. The store is always accepting donations of clothes, household goods, kitchenware, furniture, toys, books, and entertainment, but does not accept electronics.