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Church thrift store grand re-opening Friday

January 8, 2020
By MEGHAN BRADBURY ( , Pine Island Eagle

A grand re-opening of the Pine Island Community Church Thrift Store will take place this weekend, complete with an opening reception of Mel Meo's artwork.

Pine Island Community Church Pastor Heidi Grueser said they started the thrift store 10 years ago, with the anniversary taking place this month. She said after individuals continued to bring them their stuff, and it began accumulating, the thought of opening one of the bay doors of the warehouse came to fruition to see if they could sell the items being dropped off.

"It was this idea and it took. People kept coming and dropping off more stuff," Grueser said.

The items have ranged from sailboats to cars, furniture, clothes, dog beds, screws and nails to silverware.

"People bring their stuff when they don't want it and we turn around and sell it," she said, adding that the crazy part is people buy the items. "It's been this thing. Instead of going to a store, people go and check out the thrift store and see if they have it. We sell stuff for so cheap and it's for the community. We want to be able to help."

In addition, the thrift store acts provides a helping hand for those who are in-between jobs, lost everything because of a fire, or are experiencing hardships because "life has happened."

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"We furnish their house, closet and pantry," Grueser said.

After the opening of the thrift store, the church began collecting dog and cat food for all pets to start a food pantry, as well as a regular pantry for people to help supplement Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church food pantry when they are not open. Homemade meals are also offered for those in need.

Last spring a dream team was put together, Grueser said, when Mel Meo, Debbie Cundall and Gary Ruckstuhl began redoing the thrift store.

"They have made it absolutely amazing. I have known all of these folks for years and years. I was so thrilled when she (Mel Meo) added her artistic flare. The whole team is absolutely amazing. They make things happen," Grueser said.

The thrift store has changed with a new artsy flare.

"They added this whole new flare. Debbie and Mel take the furniture and they repurpose it and turn it into something that it wasn't. It's this wild art gallery. It's fun. Everything down there is fun," Grueser said.

Meo, who is one of the managers of the thrift store, said they have made a lot of changes since she was hired in August. She said she organized the store with Cundall and a few others.

The thrift store's grand re-opening from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10, followed by an opening reception of Meo's artwork starting at 6 p.m. The thrift store is located at 5320 Doug Taylor Circle in St. James City.

"We are going to have a reception with wine and cheese, d'oeuvres and music," Meo said.

"The gallery opening is going to be neat."

Grueser said she will be grilling hot dogs beginning at 10:30 a.m.

Meo said she repaints canvases and furniture to repurpose the items.

"I have been really stocking up on art. I take a lot of the paintings there that aren't so great. I paint over the canvas, as well as the furniture," she said. "I'm bringing in all my work I have been working on in the past six months."

Grueser said Meo is that one artist who has given more of her heart and soul to the island.

"She just gives and gives and gives. She is an island girl. Everything she touches just turns into love and happiness," she said. "She knows the island and the island people. It brings a whole new dynamic to the thrift store. That whole team's powerful together."

Grueser went on to say that Cundall, who works and manages with Meo, is another who only has sweet, kind, loving words to share.

"She would give the shoes off her feet. It's a powerful place and it's fun. People like to be there," she said.

For example, there is a man, Russ, and Bella, his dog, who are at the thrift store every morning to help open the doors, while his dog greets everyone who stops by.

"It's just nuts. It's wonderful and it works. Very Pine Islandish, quirky like Pine Island," Grueser said.

The volunteers, as well as Russ and his angel dog, have made everything come together.

Funds from the thrift store have provided the Pine Island Community Church with the ability to help individuals pay such things as hospital bills, medical bills, insurance, light bills, rent and repair vehicles.

"A lot of money goes back to the community," Grueser said. "The money enables us to pay for these kinds of things."

She said some of the people they help do not attend the church, but come to the thrift store.

"It's for the community at large and not for the church people," Grueser said of the funds helping the Pine Island community. "Whatever we do to help is what we do."



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