MILLINOCKET, Maine — The Rev. David LaLiberte wasn’t sure last month how his Your Family Worship Center would make it through the winter.
With heating oil prices high and his congregation diminishing due to the temporary shut-down at the paper mill, he wasn’t sure how his 30-member church could make enough money to survive and still serve the Katahdin region, he said Wednesday.
His answer: To open the Good Samaritan Thrift Shop at 245 Aroostook Ave. earlier this month. By selling all forms of clothing, plus anything else people want to donate, the shop fills a retail vacuum created when Miller’s Department Store on Penobscot Avenue abruptly closed in March.
“Things are going much better than we had expected,” La-Liberte said Wednesday. “A lot of people are coming in, and I think a lot of it has to do with the economy and the fact that the nearest other clothing stores are a good distance away.
“We tried this out because we thought it would help pay our heating bills and help the community and so far, it looks like the right idea,” he added.
Located in the former Portwine of Maine storefront — Portwine now being located off Central Street as part of Pine Tree Treasures’ collaborative venture with about a dozen other artisans, craftspeople and manufacturers — the thrift store has several thousand items of clothing for sale.
That makes it distinctive in the Katahdin region. A small consignment store, a Dollar Store outlet, and some sporting goods and convenience stores sell clothing, but not in the variety or depth that the church shop offers.
Covering about 4,500 square feet, Miller’s had a little bit of most everything — children’s, women’s and men’s clothing, footwear, toys, souvenirs and electronics supplied by Radio Shack among other things — and Good Samaritan, as well as a flea market off Route 11, are so far its only replacements.
The nearest other clothing stores are in Lincoln, with a Wal-Mart and Avanti Bridal Salon, which sells wedding apparel and other women’s clothing. Both are off Route 6.
The Thrift Shop doesn’t claim to be as nice as Miller’s was, but some good clothing and other items are available there at bargain prices, said Mary LaLiberte, the minister’s wife and the shop manager.
“It’s a place where people can get what they need,” she said. “You can get shoes, household items, clothing — anything people donate to our church.”
Blankets, togs, shoes, afghans, quilts and kitchen utensils were among the items for sale last week. Several thousand more items were in the shop’s back area, waiting to be sorted.
“The store offers a big variety,” said Carrie Sinnotti of Millinocket, a volunteer shop clerk and church member.
The Rev. Herschel Hafford of I-Care Ministries has been a great help to the store, David LaLiberte said. He allows Mary LaLiberte to take items donated to the ministry from all over the state to sell at the store for free.
“She gets to take whatever she needs,” David LaLiberte said. “He really has done a wonderful thing for us.”
Anyone interested in donating items to the store for resale can drop them there or at the Your Family Worship Center, 100 Aroostook Ave., on weekdays or by calling the center at 723-6223.