Addressing the Cashier Challenge through a New Position

We’ve got some exciting things happening in Treasures Thrift Store!

At FROM (Flat River Outreach Ministries) we are blessed with an incredible group of volunteers who help keep our thrift store running smoothly and efficiently. Volunteers touch every aspect of the store – from when items are donated until they are purchased!

Over the last several years, keeping our cashier position filled for all shifts has proved to be a consistent challenge. Due to limited volunteers available for key time frames (evenings and weekends) we’ve had to make the difficult decision to limit our open hours, and periodically have to close the store early. We know that disappoints our shoppers, and it impacts our ability to serve families in need in our community

Thrift Store Manager and Thrift Store Coordinator positions have not been able to address the cashier gap due to other needs throughout the store.

With this consistent challenge, we’ve decided to create a Cashier Lead position. This approximately 20 hour a week staff position will start as a 6-month pilot position. We are excited to welcome Dolores Bell into this role!

Dolores has worked with us both as a volunteer and through a program with AARP both as a receptionist and in the thrift store. Her warm and friendly personality has welcomed countless visitors through our front door, and we know she will help us create a welcoming experience for our customers and volunteers.

She’ll be working alongside Laura, Thrift Store Manager, and Tarin, Thrift Store Coordinator, to help:

  • Provide stability in the Cashier Schedule to ensure we don’t have to close early.
  • Work evenings and weekends and fill in where volunteers are not available.
  • Allow us to participate in special events and stay open later to provide a better customer experience!
  • Help open and close the register and train other cashiers!

FROM learned about the Cashier Lead position while investigating best practices other West Michigan thrift stores. We learned that one thrift store uses all paid staff at the register while another uses a combination of paid staff and volunteers at the register. The one using a combination utilizes several managers, assistant managers and a Cashier Lead role to fill in the volunteer gaps in the schedule.

“I’m so excited to have this position which, along with our amazing volunteers, will give us the opportunity to provide the necessary coverage to help fill our gaps as well as help us provide the best shopping experience for our customers,” Laura, Thrift Store Manager, said.

We are so thankful for all of our volunteers who work so hard in the thrift store to help us make a difference in the lives of families in need in our community. We’re excited to see how this position will come alongside volunteers and make an even greater impact in our community.

Please join us in welcoming Dolores to the FROM team!


Get to Know our Thrift Store Manager Laura!

Laura, our Thrift Store Manager, has been on staff for just over a month! To celebrate, we’ve invited her to answer a few questions so we can all get to know her better! Enjoy!

Tell us a little about yourself!

I moved to the Lowell area with my husband and two daughters, a little over a year ago from Battle Creek to be closer to my parents. I grew up in the Grand Rapids area, so it’s been fun to re-explore the area and familiarize myself with all the outdoor recreational opportunities that Lowell has to offer. I enjoy spending time with my family traveling, cooking, and playing pickle ball.

What drew you to FROM?

I was inspired by FROM’s mission to be the community hub for hope, resources and gifts.  I saw the FROM Store Manager position as an opportunity for me to leverage my experience in the Retail Industry in a non-profit setting and give back to the community in which I live.

What did you do prior to joining the FROM staff?

I have worked in the Retail/Clothing Industry throughout my career in various capacities, from Sales Manager/Assistant Store Manager, Merchandise Manager, Operations Manager, Product Analyst, Human Resources Manager to Business Administration Manager and was most recently employed by Macy’s for the past 11 years. I enjoy Retail, most especially working with people, and saw the Thrift Store Manager role as a rewarding opportunity to put my experience to work in a non-profit setting.

What have you enjoyed the most in your first month as the Thrift Store Manager?

My favorite part of the job is working with such a talented team of staff and volunteers whose mission is to provide resources for the Lowell community.  I have been very impressed by the dedication, passion and commitment of the volunteers and staff to make FROM a success. I am excited to be part of this organization and their mission to support the Lowell community.

Which of FROMs values sticks out to you the most / what makes you most passionate about being part of the FROM team?

I am aligned with FROM’s values….most especially, “Equity” in achieving our mission for all people. I saw the FROM Store Manager position as an opportunity for me to make a positive impact on the community by leveraging my experience in the Retail Industry to help achieve equal access and opportunities to help meet the needs of the community.

What’s a random fact about yourself?

I love to travel and my goal is to visit all 50 states….I have 4 more states to visit in order to hit 50 – Mississippi, Louisiana, Idaho, and Alaska!!


Lasting Legacy & Affordable Housing

The “fun” uncle. Great conversationalist. Frugal. Friend of FROM (Flat River Outreach Ministries). These all describe Phil Rice, who passed away at the end of 2020.

Through Phil, FROM was blessed to receive a generous estate gift that will be used to help families in need in our community access safe and affordable housing.

“The generous gift of Phil Rice will help Flat River Outreach Ministries continue pursuing affordable housing solutions right here in our community,” Wendie Preiss Executive Director shared.

Kathy Brady, Phil’s niece, said he was drawn to FROM because of the way FROM serves families and individuals in need. He worried about people who were in need and didn’t know where to go. He wanted to ensure they were taken care of.

Phil and his wife of sixty-four years, Donna Mae, were generous to many organizations over the years. FROM and the Humane Society were among the organizations that worked to address causes that were near and dear to them

We are so thankful for the generosity from Phil and Donna Mae and for their lasting impact on our community.

From Darkness to Joyfulness







When Sable Choals found herself volunteering in 2016, she was in a dark place.


Her mom had recently passed away, as well as her best friend. Around the same time, a traffic stop led to losing her license, which took away her ability to care for her ailing step-father and needing to complete community service.


She started coming in at 7:30 AM, after getting off work as a chemist, to clean and vacuum – and anything else she could help with.


“I was welcomed, I never felt judged,” Sable said.


Along the way, she met and befriended other volunteers who offered listening ears and encouragement to her – without judgement.


“If it had not been for Marcia [Kapolka] and me having that outlet to listen and not judge me, I really don’t know where I would have went,” Sable said. “She just lifted me up and told me everything was going to be OK.”

Sable finished her community service early, and continued volunteering at FROM. More than 5 years and nearly 2,100 volunteer hours later, Sable now helps out creating displays on her days off.


“I really did come out on the other side here,” she said. “I met a lot of other great people”


She said the reasons she continues to volunteer is because of friendships, giving back, the customers and the stories. “At some point I was like, ‘I am never leaving FROM again,’” she said.


She loves putting together displays so regular customers can see something different and loves chatting with customers about their purchases because you learn so much about them.


“To hear stories of the customers, it’s so enlightening,” she shared and continued on to say she constantly tries to remind herself what FROM is here for, and why she volunteers – to help other families and neighbors in need in the Greater Lowell Community.


Reflecting back on the last 5 years of volunteering and the growth she’s seen in herself as a person, Sable said, “I don’t think anyone should think a mistake should define you.”


“I want everyone to feel welcome and accepted,” Sable said. “I want to be able to help.”


Sable is one of more than 460 active volunteers at FROM. Volunteers touch every aspect of our organization – from setting our vision on the Board of Directors to serving in our programs and everywhere in between.

Farm Market Update! 3 Months In


It’s been just over three months since the launch of our newest program – Farm Market – and it’s been a huge success!

“The demand for the Farm Market has exceeded our initial expectations,” Kelly Glas, Healthy Food Coordinator, said. “We’re overwhelmed by the amount of support and items purchased over the last few months. It’s been amazing to meet and work with local farmers.”

More than 6,100 items sold in September, October and November with apples and eggs being the most popular items (with 767 apples and 324 dozen eggs being sold in our first two months).

Kelly shared that part of the program’s success, in additional to the cost, is that families can purchased items based on needs and family size. Food is priced either by item or pound, making it accessible to families no matter the size.

“People have shared that they’re thankful to be able to purchase just one potato, or apple, instead of multiple pounds,” Kelly said.

The Farm Market is located in Treasures Thrift Store and is open during the same hours as the store (Tuesday – Friday 10 AM-6PM and Saturday 10 AM – 2PM). The Farm Market is focused on making locally sourced produce accessible to families in the Greater Lowell Community who are earning less than 300% of the federal poverty guidelines. Families and individuals above this income level are welcome to shop as well! Purchasing produce will help ensure the long-term sustainability of the program.

Want to get involved? We are always looking for new partnerships with local farmers, as well as volunteers to help with stocking throughout the week. Please give us a call at 616.897.8260 if you want to get involved!