New Life for an Old Store
At Christmas Traditions, we’ll collect donated items for the new Carpenter’s Corner Thrift & More store.
Jim Killam
November 16, 2022

The new Carpenter’s Corner Thrift & More store, which will benefit Carpenter’s Place ministry to people experiencing homelessness, is scheduled to open in January. First Free will support the new store by collecting donated items on Dec. 10 during Christmas Traditions.

The 29,000-square-foot store is the former Hilander and Schnucks grocery store at 1715 Rural St. It has been vacant since 2014. Carpenter’s Place finalized the sale in 2021. Since then, the interior has been gutted and remodeled, with work still in progress. Kelly Whitham, director of retail operations, is hiring staff and overseeing final preparations for the store’s grand opening in January. A date hasn’t been set yet.

The new store will help fill a neighborhood void left when Schnucks closed the store in 2014.

“This area of Rockford doesn’t have a thrift store, so this is kind of nice that it will be neighborhood-based,” Kelly says. “We want to provide a place for dignified shopping for those who come here and can’t afford the big box stores.”

Kelly Whitham

All store sales will directly benefit the ministry of Carpenter’s Place. Donations already have poured in, filling the lower level of Carpenter’s Place and also several rooms at St. Bernadette Catholic Church. Those have to be moved to the new store and processed as soon as the space is ready, she said. The sales floor is 27,000 square feet, meaning it will take about 27,000 items to stock it daily.

“Without donations, we don’t have a store,” Kelly says, “so we will treat all donations with utmost respect. We will price things accordingly, so people feel like we are being good stewards of their donations. Our donors will be greatly valued, appreciated and thanked.”

Carpenter’s Corner will also feature a children’s library and an area where donated bikes will be repaired and refurbished for sale or to give to people being served by Carpenter’s Place. The store will have a paid staff, but also will provide a job-training program, Kelly says.

“For homeless people who are needing to get back on their feet, we will be able to train them and help them build a resume here.”

Carpenter’s Place, with its main location at 1149 Railroad Avenue, is a Christian ministry serving homeless people with two meals a day, education, employment training, help in finding housing and more. First Free Rockford supports Carpenter’s Place as part of our Reach Rockford ministry. First Free also supports Rockford Rescue Mission, which serves homeless and hurting people as well, and also operates a thrift store.

“At the end, we both want to meet the same needs,” Kelly says. “We just do it in different ways.”

Opportunities to give and serve

Items needed to help stock the store include:

  • Sheets (twin, full, queen, king)
  • Blankets (twin, full, queen, king)
  • Comforters/bedspreads (twin, full, queen, king )
  • Bath towels 
  • Wash cloths 
  • Kitchen towels 
  • Placemats 
  • Small kitchen appliances (toasters, coffee makers, blenders, etc.)
  • Baking sheets, baking pans 
  • Kitchen accessories (tongs, can openers, lifters, spatulas, large slotted spoons, etc.)
  • Casserole dishes with lids 
  • Serving dishes

Bring your items to Christmas Traditions and drop them in bins at the church entrances.

The store also needs staff members and volunteers, as thousands of donated items will need to be processed daily. It’s a great opportunity for Life Groups, Adult Communities or individuals to serve. To find out more, contact Kelly at kellyw@carpentersplace.org, or 815-964-4105, ext. 105.

Once the ceilings and floors are finished soon, fixtures will be moved into the space and the store will take shape quickly.
Jim Killam
Jim Killam is a journalist, author, teacher and terminal Cubs fan. He and his wife, Lauren, live in Rockford and work internationally with Wycliffe Bible Translators.


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