Sal­vation Army’s new location in downtown Hillsdale.
Josephine von Dohlen | Col­legian


The backroom of the The Sal­vation Army Family Store and Donation Center is jam-packed full of books, clothing, acces­sories, fur­niture, and a variety of odds-and-ends. Country radio plays on the speakers as red-polo clad employees sort and price each item. The members of the 12-person staff have their own des­ig­nated jobs, Sue Shearer handles acces­sories, Delores Carscadden prices clothing, Beka Herzog runs the front cash reg­ister. Together they stay true to the Sal­vation Army’s mission: to evan­gelize.

Founded in London in 1865, The Sal­vation Army has been present in Hillsdale County since 1886. Throughout all its pro­grams, it strives to be an inter­na­tional movement and an evan­gelical part of the uni­versal Christian church. Its message is based on the Bible.

According to the organization’s mission statement, its “min­istry is moti­vated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without dis­crim­i­nation.”

The Family Store and Donation Center con­sti­tutes only part of the The Sal­vation Army’s involvement in the Hillsdale com­munity. The Sal­vation Army of Hillsdale, Michigan, runs a food pantry, family min­istry, and a church. Store Manager Dottie Dendy said the income from the store helps to raise money for Sal Val’s other pro­grams.

“The money that we raise stays here in the county,” Dendy said. “Which is kind of nice because people donate trying to help their neighbors and then, in some places, the money will go to Cal­i­fornia. Here it doesn’t. It stays in our county.”

The store also aims to provide clothing and neces­sities for those at every income level.

“We have beau­tiful designer things that are priced higher,” Dendy said. “We have a lot of things that for $5 you could come in and buy an entire outfit. So we try to make sure there is some­thing for everybody.”

A plethora of Hillsdale stu­dents benefit from those low prices.  Senior Samuel Potter says his entire wardrobe other than pants and shoes have been pur­chased from Sal Val.

“In Hillsdale, there aren’t any places to shop for clothing,” Potter said. “I also really like used stores. Sal Val is really cheap which is great for college stu­dents as well. This one is an espe­cially cheap Sal­vation Army. I can go in and get as many clothes as I want. I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than $25, which is ridiculous.”

The store can keep prices at a minimum as all mer­chandise is donated. While some items cannot be sold in the store, the employees try to find a way to make use of every­thing.

“People will donate pre­scription eye­glasses,” Dendy said. “We save those all up and send them to the Lions Club. We don’t sell mag­a­zines, but we get them in dona­tions. Those all go to the Adrian Women’s Prison. We try to make use of every­thing that we pos­sibly can.”

Other items donated at the Hillsdale store find them­selves shipped to the other side of the world. Those dona­tions deemed to be unsuitable for resale are bailed and sent to the dis­tri­b­ution center in Gaylord.

“It all goes to Africa,” Dendy said. “You think of it as just a little rinky dink store, but when you get the whole thing, it’s a big cor­po­ration.”

Many Sal Val employees said they love working at the Family Store, and the 12 or so employees have become a tight knit group.

“Everybody is friendly,” employee Tammi Lemar said. “We all get along well. We’ve become a lot like a family, really.”

Sue Shearer said she sees her employment at the store as a helping hand to those in need.  

“God says help your neighbor,” Shearer said. “To me that’s what this store is doing. It’s helping the people in need, the neighbors. It’s just helping somebody you really don’t know. It makes you feel good inside to do that.”