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.”