Here at The Church Mouse, we are fortunate to serve a community that has been called the most charitable town in South Carolina. Hilton Head Island residents, they say, are among the most likely to share their good fortune with others. As we pursue our mission at The Church Mouse of supporting worthy charities and resources in the community and abroad, we are constantly in touch with this spirit of generosity and compassion that surrounds us.
From St. Francis Thrift Shop, our colleague on the north of the Island, we draw inspiration, encouragement, and lessons on at least two levels: The lessons of the Thrift Shop and lessons from the life of St. Francis. On the first level, the St. Francis Thrift Shop demonstrates the continued capacity for giving, particularly in our community, and the structure for what might be called a charitable business model. Based on that model of donors, volunteers, and grants, the St. Francis Thrift Shop is a powerful example of what can be made from the better parts of not only human nature, but also our creativity, compassion, energy, and generosity.
Examples such as those of the St. Francis Thrift Shop are more welcome today than ever. And the lessons go deep. The life of St. Francis has for centuries served as a focal point for these lessons about our better natures. Born into a well-to-do family in the late 1100s, St. Francis’s father was an Italian cloth merchant, and his mother was a French woman of the aristocracy. As a young man, he served as a soldier and the spiritual awakening that transformed him began when he was a prisoner of war. After release, he chose experiences of service and poverty. His dedication to becoming a channel of good to the needy led him to a life that resulted in sainthood. From this timeless example, the St. Francis Thrift Shop is well-named indeed.
The Difference We Make
Although The Church Mouse has only a couple of decades of experience thus far, examples such as those of the St. Francis Thrift Shop gave us an excellent starting point. From there, we have cultivated a few differences in the effort to offer something new, a boutique thrift shop.
The feeling people get on arriving at our Arrow Road location has been described as more like visiting the home of a friend than shopping at a thrift shop or goodwill outlet. We are blessed with a building that feels lofty and light inside, so that sense of space and brightness is a big part of the first impression.
Then there is the “merchandise.” We put quotes around that, because we don’t look at these goods as merchandise alone, but rather as items that were part of a home, a life, an outlook. These items were valued so much that their original owners did not want them to go away without a trace, but rather to find a new home and to contribute to good works as they did so. This is a very different life cycle than “merchandise.”
Arranged in a home-like manner, the brand names people find at The Church Mouse bespeak that lifecycle of being carefully selected and donated with love. Waterford crystal and Pottery Barn utensils, Le Creuset cookware, Henredon and Drexel Heritage furniture, apparel for men and women from Neiman Marcus, Lily Pulitzer, and Ralph Lauren – taking a lesson from the patron of the St. Francis Thrift Shop, all these familiar names find their way from good homes to The Church Mouse and make their mark on the good works we help to fund.
In a Community of Giving
One result of dwelling in such a charitable community as Hilton Head Island is that The Church Mouse each year reviews grant proposals from dozens of worthy charitable enterprises. We have been fortunate to discover more than 125 effective non-profits here in the region and worthy missions abroad, which we have supported with more than $2.5 million in grants from the proceeds of our sales.
Constantly we are reminded that giving takes place on many levels as these funds find their way to charity. Like those of the St. Francis Thrift Shop, our Church Mouse donors choose to give their well-loved items, rather than to sell them. And from those gifts of home furnishings, furniture, clothing, jewelry, books, and more, The Church Mouse volunteers give of their time to convert those items to sales. And so, the proceeds of those sales are in a way three times blessed with compassion, enterprise, and generosity when they find their way to The Church Mouse grant recipients.
The example of the St. Francis Thrift Shop is a shining one. It is surrounded, too, by a community of people who use the talents they were given and the skills they developed through their lives to help make the lives of others less stressful and more open to the blessings that life can bring. At The Church Mouse, we are attentive to these lessons, demonstrations, and examples. Paying attention as enabled us to offer them to others, from donors to customers to grantees.
We invite you to enjoy the experience of stepping into this flow of blessings. We look forward to your visit to The Church Mouse, on Arrow Road, Hilton Head Island.