When a woman realized that maternity tops cost just 25 cents at June’s Place thrift store, she started to cry.
Moments like these stand out to Louise Rutledge, a “forever resident” of Reading, Michigan, who volunteers at the non-profit, community-driven thrift store.
In four short years, June’s Place at 125 S. Main Street in Reading has raised $70,000 for the community and beyond. The Women of Reading United Methodist Church founded the store in honor of the life of a church member, June Radebaugh. Every Monday, the women’s group gathers to sort donations for the racks of the storefront.
About 20 volunteers staff the store, which is open every Friday and Saturday, said Phyllis Newell, the chairwoman of June’s Place and the treasurer for the women’s group. Newell has attended United Methodist since she was very young and directed the choir there for 50 years.
“It’s a mission product for the community,” Newell said. “We also give to people who have severe illness and can not work. The money covers things like funeral expenses too.”
The profit the store raises goes to organizations and schools in Reading. This includes a program at the schools called the backpack program, which provides a backpack every Friday full of food for students who might not have much to eat at home over the weekend. Newell also said June’s Place gives to the Shriners organizations. In addition, the store grants a $500 scholarship each year to one young man and one young woman at Reading High School.
Newell said being open on Fridays and Saturdays is easy, whereas the time spent on Mondays ensures that articles of clothing have working zippers, no missing buttons, and are ‘spit-and-polish clean.’
“I love working Fridays because you get to know the people who come in,” Newell said. “We have a reputation, so we get people from all over. It’s clean and it smells good — we don’t put out stuff that smells like a cat or a smoker, and it makes a difference.”
It’s not just women from the Reading United Methodist Church running June’s Place. People from the town and surrounding communities volunteer as well.
Newell said the women’s group was inspired to start June’s Place after they visited a church in Union City, Michigan that had a resale store.
“It took us months to know whether we could do this too or not. We were worried whether or not we’d have enough donations or enough people to keep it running — we have both,” Newell said.
Sue Denning, who has lived in Reading for the past five years and has volunteered at June’s Place since it opened, emphasized that the prices for good-quality items can stay low because volunteers run the shop.
“People get to have things that they might not have otherwise. An Amish dad bought his daughter rollerblades; she was thrilled with them,” Denning said. “I love seeing the excitement of the children.”
One day, Rutledge said, a couple came in and wanted to purchase a nativity scene, but did not have the money. Upon overhearing their problem, a gentleman in the store anonymously purchased the set for them.
“Sometimes the good we have here brings out the good in other people,” Rutledge added.
Such good deeds point back to someone who was an important part of Reading’s community.
“June Radebaugh was very active in the United Methodist Women and church, and she passed away six months before we opened,” Newell said. “She was such a mission-minded person, so we named the store after her.”
June’s Place is not just for the people of Reading United Methodist, Newell said — many people from all different faiths in the town come to help and shop.
“To just know that there is a community of people, that by buying things less expensively here, those people are able to spend money on food and utilities,” Denning said. “When you’re living a good life, you don’t always know what other people are going through.”