When folks discover shopping at The Church Mouse, one of the things we most often hear from them is how different the experience was from anything they expected. It’s true that most of our expectations may have been shaped by a hometown thrift shop or by shopping at one time or other at a Goodwill outlet. Somehow, The Church Mouse from the very beginning has succeeded in offering more. And this difference shows up for shoppers, for people who donate their nice things to sell, and for volunteers as well.
Perhaps the expectation is to be expected because Goodwill outlets are so numerous, and The Church Mouse is one of a kind.
When the Name Fits
Goodwill outlets have one of those brand names that fit a product or service so perfectly that they become the generic term for it. Jet Ski, Bubble Wrap, and even the infant PJs we call Onesies are trademarked brand names, to cite just a few. Surprising as it is, these names fit their purpose so well that most people are not even aware that they are trademarks. Yes, Gerber Childrenswear trademarked not only Onesies, but Twosies and Funsies, too.
There is another kind of name that gets ground into near-generic usage, not because it fits so well, but just because it is used so universally. Jeep, Xerox, FedEx, and even Coke have – or once had – whole floors of lawyers working to uphold their ownership of those names.
“Goodwill outlet” makes this team on both counts. To begin with, it is a good description of the service, or at least the spirit behind the service. It also has been used so much, for so long, to describe the destination for things that are still in decent shape, but for which we have no further use, that folks frequently just call the box of things they are discarding “the goodwill box.” And as the store, the source for putting those things in the hands of new users, goodwill outlet seems to be understood practically everywhere.
The Church Mouse Grew Differently
About 20 years ago, some “church ladies” at St. Luke’s on Hilton Head Island founded The Church Mouse as a ministry to help support non-profit organizations doing good all around the area and the region. Men, too, soon found in The Church Mouse a more personal, local, and accountable version of the goodwill outlet, one that donors, volunteers, and customers alike find to perfectly fit their intentions and needs. The Church Mouse approach has rung so true for so many, that more than $2.5 million has been raised thus far from the sale of the items people donate, for the purpose of changing lives locally, and around the world.
Seeking to put a clear handle on what makes The Church Mouse different from a goodwill outlet, the ministry describes itself as a “Boutique Thrift Shop.”
One way to look at “boutique” is through the lens of the designers and brands – speaking of brand names – that people donate to The Church Mouse, and which shoppers happily find here. Neiman Marcus, Talbots, Ralph Lauren, Tory Burch, Lilly Pulitzer, Tommy Bahama, and more are among the wearables. Furniture crafted by Henredon and Drexel Heritage is on display. Kitchens and dining rooms graced by Le Creuset, Fitz & Floyd, and Waterford give up their glory to The Church Mouse, as grateful donors pass treasured items on to new homes when the times comes. Jewelry ranging from fun to heirloom is offered here, too. These are not necessarily names you meet so often at a goodwill outlet.
Selected Carefully Each Year
Another difference between The Church Mouse and a goodwill outlet is that the charities we support are just as carefully selected as the items donated here for sale. Our annual evaluations are conducted fresh each year, and preference goes to applications from organizations located within the community – in Beaufort and Jasper Counties. To spread the Word, we award grants each year to Christian missions outside the U.S. also. In both these respects, we differ from a goodwill outlet.
In recent years, grants from The Church Mouse have included organizations that provide food, shelter, and clothing to folks in need; to prison ministries, to education and literacy, and to the physical and spiritual needs of babies, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities or mental illness.
How the Blessings Go Full Circle
Charitable grants from The Church Mouse are only a part of the story. Volunteers and donors are just as likely to tell you that they prefer The Church Mouse as the happy shoppers here might do. We find it’s a rather good example of “doing well by doing good.”
When a family is downsizing as their children go off to college, when new arrivals in the sea islands are furnishing the home that they dreamed about, when a thoughtful person is looking for something worthwhile to do after retiring from a demanding career, all find The Church Mouse to be a blessing far beyond merely a goodwill outlet.
You’ll find The Church Mouse on Arrow Road, not far from the Sea Pines Circle, and easily within reach, for visitors and Hilton Head Island residents alike. We look forward to getting acquainted.