For 24 years, the Upperville Thrift Shop has filled most of the basement of Trinity Episcopal Church, selling secondhand clothes, shoes, collectibles and household wares at bargain prices to those in need -- and to anyone looking for a good deal. But the church now says it needs the space and has asked the thrift shop to move.
"If we don't find another location by mid-July, we have no other recourse than to donate the merchandise we have and shut down the operation," said Hollie Satterfield, the shop's manager and a member of its board of directors. The shop is independent from the church and has its own nonprofit status.
The shop is a Loudoun and Fauquier institution. It uses its revenue to help needy residents, who may have lost a job or face emergency medical bills. It paid the monthly pharmacy bill of an elderly woman on Social Security for 15 years until she died.
Satterfield said the shop has given away $154,000, as well as clothes and other goods, since its founding.
"The church and the thrift shop have worked hand in hand all these years," Satterfield said. "I don't know who is going to pick up the slack."
The church said it wants to reconsider how it uses its seven buildings. The vestry sent a letter to the thrift shop's board last month saying it would have to vacate the basement. Interim rector the Right Rev. Martin Townsend, a former bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Easton, Md., said the choir may move into the space. The choir now rehearses during the week in the basement of another church building but prepares for services in rooms near the thrift shop.
About 50 people attended a public meeting regarding the thrift shop Monday in Trinity's parish hall. Parishioners Rich and Mary Shoemaker, who run a nursery and porcelain shop about a third of a mile west of the church, offered the thrift shop free use of a building on their property, in which they store garden equipment.
The building lacks heating, air conditioning and other necessities, but Townsend said the church would contribute $10,000 or more to make the space useable. Rich Shoemaker said he would also pay the building's electricity bill and "give whatever is necessary to make this thing work. . . . All you have to do is show up and do your thing."
However, several members of the thrift shop board said the building, at approximately 25 feet by 25 feet, doesn't have enough space for the group to receive, sort and sell goods there. The church basement is several times larger.
Townsend said the church might be able to provide rooms for storage and suggested that other Upperville churches be asked to do the same.
"The resources in the community are more than adequate to do the ministry we need to do," he said after the meeting. "We're working toward . . . an ecumenical effort where the churches are all able to contribute, not only volunteers but also ideas."
The thrift shop has about 14 active volunteers and a board made up of members of several area churches, Satterfield said.
Although the vestry has been exploring reclaiming the church basement for some time, Townsend said his arrival in March -- and the stability of having an interim rector -- may have prompted the church leadership to move forward. He said the church has no plans to open its own thrift shop in competition with the existing one.