When I am feeling low or needing a little break from the real world stresses and problems, I always try to just take a stroll through a thrift store. We actually have two of them in Wheatland, one owned by Marge Scholten and one managed by Marge Scholten.
As I journey down the aisles of forgotten treasures, I always seem to find something that takes me beyond the 9-to-5, to a place way back in my memories. Perhaps it’s something as simple as a single glass cup or maybe a commemorative plate.
I don’t think I’ve ever been in a shop that didn’t remind me of my childhood. I see something on a shelf and suddenly I am drinking a coke again out of an old Tupperware glass at my grandma’s house, or the musty smell that projected me back in time to my Aunt Eleanor’s attic.
Forgotten artifacts that take me back to a simpler setting. A time when I wasn’t the one paying the electric bill or putting food on the table. The call to supper when the only fear I had was whether there would be lima beans on my plate alongside the meatloaf. Seeing a big, beige mixing bowl on a shelf where I can close my eyes and see the steam rising from the mashed potatoes in my mother’s bowl on our old kitchen table and wondering how that bowl got to Wyoming.
After 15 years of service, the servant who ran the Community Thrift Store on Gilchrist, Marge Scholten will be retiring. As of a week from today,Scholten will spend her last day as manager of the store. Although she will still be overseeing the Used Furniture Etc. store at 719 9th Street, her work with the store she incepted in 2008 will come to a close.
Scholten has worked the Community Thrift Store strictly on a volunteer basis although she hired and paid employees that worked there. She donated most of the profits to help transport patients who needed dialysis back and forth to their dialysis centers. The money paid for gas, van upkeep and per diem for the van drivers. According to a sheet circulated by Pastor Joshua Bruns, pastor of Covenant Lutheran Church, the operation revenue was approximately $6,000 per month and the all the revenue went to expenses.
Scholten was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and lived there for a good portion of her life. After she moved to Wyoming she secured not only her high school GED but also earned her LPN and RN degrees. Scholten and her husband Bob moved to Wheatland in 1979 where he secured a job at the power plant.
“My husband worked up from a laborer to a plant systems operator,” Scholten said. “He worked there for 30 years. Bob passed away in October of 2020 from COVID. He went into the hospital Oct. 8 and I never saw him again.”
During the early years in Wheatland Scholten worked as a CNA at the hospital at the same time she was securing her nursing degrees. From there she worked at the nursing home which she said she really enjoyed and then, according to her, God directed her to open the thrift store.
“I had a dream,” she said. “And God told me I had to do something to help the community. So I joined a group and they were trying to get something going in town and I just didn’t fit in. So God came back to me and said, ‘open up a thrift store.’ I called my friend Loretta Louck who was a part of the Salvation Army and I asked her if she thought I’d make enough money to pay the rent and utilities and she told me it would be no problem.”
The Scholtens began on the south side of Gilchrist for three months before purchasing the building where the thrift store now sits. The start was something that Scholten had never done.
“We just put up signs that said ‘thrift store opening, donations only,’” she said. “Doug Weaver helped me by telling me it would be easier to go through a nonprofit organization. So we went to the Covenant Lutheran Church council. So that’s how that partnership started. They sponsor me but we do not exchange any money. Everything we make here goes back to the community.”
As Scholten retires, there are many questions that need to be answered. According to Gail Thompson, a representative at Covenant Lutheran Church, there are three things that will happen here at the end of January that will be key to the survival of the continuation of the store.
A community meeting will be held at the First State Bank Conference Center January 26 at 5:30 p.m. for the purpose of receiving input and suggestions regarding the future of the patient transport service and the Community Thrift Store.
The Thrift Store will be closed for the month of February for the purpose of reorganization.
The patient transport service will continue through this period as normal.
Without the Community Thrift Store, the economical resource for clothing, household items, occasional food items, etc. will cease. Also, the “Give-A-Lift” transportation services will also cease.
The Give-A-Lift services for people in our county include trips for a variety of appointments, such as chemotherapy, dialysis, physical therapy, eye care, dental, medical and other transportation needs. Right now the number of trips range from 45 to 75 a month serving approximately 100 people per month.
The Community Thrift Store also provides free goods for people or groups in need, such as displaced persons and families, newly released prisoners and youth groups. The store serves approximately 8,000 customers per year.
The store and Give-A-Lift services currently operate under the 501c3 umbrella of Covenant Lutheran Church. The optimal solution would be for the community to reorganize the operations under a new 501c3 similar to our current Platte Valley County Hospital Board. That new entity would then hire a manager to be responsible for the store operation and Give-A-Lift services.
The alternative for nobody stepping up would be the liquidation of all assets and the Community Thrift Store would cease to exist.
Scholten has given a lot of herself and her time to our community and there will be a special retirement party for her Jan. 28 at 2 p.m. at Covenant Lutheran Church. She is not one to blow her own horn, and I would like to just personally say thank you for the thousands of people that have been helped the past 15 years. I fully expect God to come in her next dream to say, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”