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Verdigre thrift store one of three inspired by archdiocesan priest

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Shirts run $2 to $4, jeans $4.

Looking for furniture? A kitchen table and four chairs cost about $30, a love seat $25, an upholstered arm chair and lamp are both $10.

It's the Verdigre Carousel Thrift Shop, founded on Main Street in a town - Verdigre - that before July didn't have a clothing store or a furniture store.

Inspired by a priest of the archdiocese - Father James Kramper - the store is run by volunteers fueled by faith and a desire to help people in need while inviting people in the community of 570 to share gently used goods with one another.

And all of the proceeds are funneled back into ministries and projects in the community.

One recent customer stepped past the carousel horse that sits outside the store, entered and came out moments later with two pairs of shoes and a coat for chilly fall weather - all for $12.

"He was so pleased," said Connie Gompert, one of three founders of the store and owner of the building that houses all of the clothes, blankets, books, pictures, toys, appliances and stuffed animals.

It's not the only nondenominational secondhand store with a charitable focus inspired by Father Kramper. There is the Sunset Store that opened five years ago in an old lumber yard on the west side of Ewing, and its satellite Santa Shop on Main Street in the town where Father Kramper serves as pastor of St. Peter de Alcántara Parish, and the New to You shop in Emerson, where he served as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish from 1996 to 2002.

Since its founding 14 years ago, the store in Emerson has given away more than $100,000 to various causes, Father Kramper said.

"He doesn't push it, but he does these things and you see how it helps the community," said Deacon Keith Pavlik, a member of St. Wenceslaus Parish in Verdigre whose wife, Theresa, helped found and now volunteers at the Verdigre store.

Father Kramper, who also is pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Deloit Township of rural Holt County and St. Theresa of Avila in Clearwater, is known for his living Nativities, sometimes including camels and most recently near Dakota City. He has encouraged volunteers to build miniature golf courses as parish projects in Lindsay and Decatur and held creative fundraisers such as selling numbers in $1 increments from one up to 100, raising more than $5,000 in the process.

"I give God credit for planting the idea," Father Kramper said. "And then I dream. And then I have to find people who can carry it out."

Theresa Pavlik said she met Father Kramper several years ago and he mentioned the importance of second-hand stores to small towns. A flyer made by Father Kramper spells out some of the benefits: Thrift stores can bring new life to empty buildings, help people recycle goods they no longer use, provide shoppers with inexpensive clothing and other items, and with volunteer labor can help raise money for community projects.

The idea was planted, and it bore fruit in October, when Theresa's mention of it in passing intrigued Cheryl Vesely of Verdigre, the third founder of the enterprise, who began to look for the right building. And finally, Connie moved to town in December after selling her home in Center, learned about the project, believed the town could benefit from a store and in the spring passed a building for sale just two blocks from her home that was a department store before it closed about a dozen years ago.

"I saw the 'for sale' sign and it was like the Lord said, 'you can buy the building,'" Connie said.

After having some renovations made to the building the three women opened the store in July, and it has been a hit ever since, Theresa said. About 15 people - some from St. Wenceslaus Parish, others not, such as Vesely and Gompert - volunteer at the store, which is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.

A committee of six Verdigre residents, including members of the Methodist, Lutheran and Catholic faiths, will meet every three months to decide where to funnel the proceeds. Schools, 4-H clubs, street improvements and the local swimming pool all are possible beneficiaries, Theresa said.

Similar groups benefit from the Sunset Store and the Santa Shop in Ewing, which last year gave away a total of $13,373 in profits to a community garden, senior center, police and fire departments, shelter for pregnant women and other organizations and causes in Ewing, surrounding communities and across the archdiocese, Father Kramper said.

"We generate $1,000 or more every month," Father Kramper said. "It comes in, goes out and does a lot of good."

Several families in the area around Ewing who have lost their homes and possessions to fire or flood have been invited into the store over the years and allowed to take whatever they need.

Father Kramper also finds places for items that don't leave the store shelves, such as clothes to the Orphan Grain Train in Norfolk for the needy in the United States and around the world, and stuffed animals to O'Neill, where they are sent as part of packages to troops stationed overseas so they can share them with children in the areas they serve.

"We're kind of an important link in the recycling chain," Father Kramper said.

And the impetus is the Christian call to stewardship, he said.

"There are so many gifts in the community we are calling forth," he said. "Not only in sharing goods but some volunteers are good with the public, some are good at putting items out on the store shelves, others are good at bringing items into the store.

"For many of these items, it's a chance to have another round, rather than being thrown out or put away in the attic. And the money goes to whatever needs there are."

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