Working Together to Give Back

Ray and Beth have been involved in FROM since the very beginning in 1998. Ray helped establish FROM and served on the board for several years. Beth became involved by volunteering in various roles.

Now, Ray and Beth volunteer in the food pantry, spending their Tuesdays sorting donations, stocking shelves, and forming relationships with the participants who stop in.

“We enjoy doing this,” said Beth. “It gives us a lot of satisfaction to help other people.”

Kelly Glas, FROM Healthy Food Program Coordinator, enjoys working alongside Ray and Beth.

“Ray and Beth are consistent, hardworking and really understand the mission here at FROM,” she said. “They’re always willing to go the extra mile to, sign up for extra shifts, and simply being a smiling face to those around them.”

Both Ray and Beth also help in other programs such as the Christmas distribution when they are needed.

“They go above and beyond in volunteering,” Monica Light, Program Manager, said. “Not just through FROM but within the community. They are truly selfless people that will help because it’s the right thing to do.”

The retirees spend time on their hobbies such as gardening in their yard, learning to paint at LowellArts, or staying involved in their church.

The extra time has also allowed them to enjoy their time volunteering at FROM and spending time with their friends. They have formed many memories while creating friendships with both participants and fellow volunteers.

“It’s like visiting our family once a week,” Beth said about her volunteer experience.

Between the two of them, they’ve given nearly 3,000 hours of time to the community through their volunteering at FROM. We are so thankful for them and the incredible impact they make in the community.

Tips for Your Next Thrift Store Trip!

Many of our staff and volunteers here at FROM are avid thrift store shoppers! We asked our Marketing Communications Intern, Liz, to share her top tips for how to find treasures and snag the best deals on your next shopping trip. 


Thrift shopping is one of my favorite activities. There is always a big rush when your next favorite sweater appears in your life and you also got it for an amazing price. I picked up a number of these tips from my sister, who also loves to thrift. 


Thrifting used to be so stressful for me. The crowds, the racks, and did I mention the crowds? My sister explained that the thrifting experience is more than buying a shirt and leaving, the fun part is looking through aisles, trying things on, and giving yourself the time and space to do so. It is a no-pressure time, so don’t add the extra expectation that you ARE going to find a Gucci bag, but that you COULD find one. 


After getting into the right headspace and bringing a friend or two, I am now able to fully enjoy the experience and now it has become an activity to help me de-stress. What I love about FROM is that they’re always giving out deals to help make these finds a little sweeter. Keep reading below for some tricks to make your next trip overflow with treasure. 


Shop on the Right Day

There is nothing worse than spotting an item and then watching someone else get it first. This has happened to me more times than I can count. The mourning process of what could have been is a hard one to get over. Finding the best day to shop can make or break your experience. For FROM, there is a line out the door almost every Monday, if you are an olympian on thrift shopping, go for it. However, if you like the peaceful atmosphere of a browsing experience, try a Wednesday afternoon or anytime later in the week when we tend to be less busy.


Shop Off-Season For Clothes

When checking out a coat in the middle of August, you might get a few looks of confusion or maybe even concern. However, when other pro thrifters see you you’ll get the nod of approval. Other thrift stores give a better deal for out-of-season clothing and materials and FROM is no different. Also, the coats and sweaters will be less picked though so a surprise find is basically guaranteed. 


Know When Your Store Restocks 

Restock day is like Christmas in the thrifting community. It’s the newest and shiniest toy under the tree. It will be a busy day but it will be worth it when you get to have first dibs on items. FROM restocks all week, meaning you can make visiting an occasional trip or a daily one. Either or, there will always be something new to find!


Dress For The Occasion

Some thrift stores will have changing rooms, while others might not. It is a dangerous game of guessing which is true. It would be a shame to see a dress and think, “yeah that’s so me” buy it, and then try it on only to see that green is not your color. Luckily FROM has some but depending on the day it could be busy. If you don’t have time to wait in lines then dress for the occasion with simple modifications. Are you getting a dress? Bring heels so you can test the length. Looking for a sweater? Wear a tank or a t-shirt so you can try one on. Wearing comfortable shoes is also a must, if you’re going to shop till you drop, make sure you don’t drop for a while.


Look For Items to Repurpose

Are you a repurpose expert? I give props to you then because I am still learning this impressive skill. FROM offers many items that can be changed to their full potential. We’ve got tables, chairs, and a bunch of promising items for you to start your next mission. We’ve seen people take old clothing and bring them to life through tie-dye, and many others who have created crafts out of old ties, and brought new life to furniture. The possibilities are truly endless at FROM. 


Scan The Aisles

It can be really easy to spend hours looking at each individual piece of clothing on the racks. You might want to make sure you aren’t missing an item that would make all your friends jealous. Unfortunately, not everyone has hours to spend, if you train your eyes and mind to be able to scan the aisles for those pieces you’ve been looking for, then you’ll save so much time. Think of it like a 6th sense, a fashion sense!


Make Friends With Your Thrift Store Staff 

Thrift stores don’t run on their own. They need a devoted staff and or volunteers to help keep them running. Most of the time, the people working there are just as passionate as you about thrifting. If you become friends or acquainted with the staff, they can help you find good deals, give advice, or let you know if that top you found looks good! Our staff and volunteers get to know many of our customers, and we’d love to get to know you too so we can help you find those unique items perfect for you! 


Why Shop Second Hand

It can bring a thrill when you find an expensive piece for a great price. This feeling alone might be why many choose to thrift, yet, there is also an even better payoff from shopping second-hand. By giving cute tops and couches a second chance at life, you’re keeping them out of landfills. We’ve seen lots of people give clothing a second, third or fourth life by purchasing items through our thrift store. In fact, some people purchase from us, use it awhile and then donate it back to pass it along to someone else.  


About Liz: Lis is a junior at Cornerstone University studying Marketing. She’s an avid thrifter and has been interning with FROM since May 2022.

We’re Hiring – A Seasonal Thrift Store Associate!

We’re so blessed by the volunteers that put in so many hours at FROM (Flat River Outreach Ministries), including Treasures Thrift Store!


Our 2022 Thrift Store sales are projected to surpass $500,000 by the end of the year – a new store record!


This growth has allowed us to launch new programs, like our Farm Market, and dream big about future programs that still need to come to our community.


One area that has continued to be a struggle, despite best efforts from staff and volunteers, is to have enough cashiers to effectively staff and run our thrift store. Currently, we have 48 cashier slots and only 28 volunteers who sign up weekly to fill them.

We’re headed into our holiday season, which is our busiest, and we know consistent coverage at the register is critical for a positive customer experience. We recognize that upcoming holidays and vacations will also impact our ability to staff the registers. Our choices are to either close the store when we don’t have coverage – or hire a seasonal full-time Thrift Store Associate.


In an effort to not lose the momentum we have built since the pandemic (when we had to close the store for more than 3 months), we are moving forward with hiring a seasonal Thrift Store Associate.


Volunteers cashiers are absolutely still critical for the store to function. This position will work alongside our incredible volunteer cashiers, filling in at the register when shifts are not covered. When shifts are covered, the Thrift Store Associate will be assisting in the second highest need area – our Thrift Store Donation Room.


Working in the donation room will help alleviate pressure, and items from the room, to assist volunteers who are also working in that space. More than just a way to support our mission, the Thrift Store also serves as a program to ensure families have access to other basic needs at an affordable price.


We still encourage folks to sign up to volunteer to help us eliminate the cashier shortage. If you, or anyone you know, is interested in volunteering as a cashier 1-2 shifts a month, please fill out the volunteer interest form today.


If you are interested in applying for the Full-Time Seasonal Thrift Store Sales Associate, please apply today by clicking here.

Starting off right – backpack distribution 2022

340 students walked into their first day of classes in August with the confidence that they had a backpack and school supplies to take the school year head-on.

Kids were able to pick out their backpack and collect school supplies specific for their school, grade and classroom.

A big thanks to all of the volunteers who helped out – including a group from Lowell Family Dentistry – as well as support from our community through school supply and financial donations. 

Preparation for the August distribution started in April when the team sat and made the game plan. This included coming up with ideas on how to improve from the previous years. 

“We were essentially coming out of a COVID-19 restriction time,” said Monica. “We always ask the question ‘how could we make sure we help everyone involved in the best way?’ Then June-July came and registration began. Registration is important because it helps FROM know how many supplies to purchase, especially ones that are specific to one grade or classroom. 

Alongside the Backpack Distribution, the Alto Lions Club offered free vision screenings. This was another effort from the FROM team to make the Backpack Distribution program experience as pleasant as possible. “We are always looking to make the experience as enjoyable for kids as the parents,” Monica said.

“I’ve always been treated with kindness and respect and it is appreciated immensely,” a program participant shared. “It’s hard to admit you’re struggling, but FROM never makes you feel ashamed of asking for help.”

Backpack Distribution happens the second week of August each year and is available to families who live in the Lowell Area School District and make 300% of the Federal Poverty Level or less or have an expressed need. You don’t have to attend the Lowell Area Schools, you just have to live in the district and have a child attending school The Backpack Distribution is one of more than a dozen programs FROM offers throughout the year. The next program requiring registration is our Christmas Toy Store and Food Basket. Registration starts November 1st, 2022 and the program will be held the second week of December. Click here to learn more about the Christmas Toy Store and Food Basket and all other FROM programs. 

Giving Back to Her Community


Whether it’s FROM (Flat River Outreach ministries) or the Lowell Wildlife Center, Sjana spends many hours a week volunteering her time to help the Lowell community.  


She started volunteering at FROM in 2009 and has worked in a variety of the Thrift Store’s departments. She now spends most of her time in the donation room sorting through items to help prepare them to be sold in the Thrift store.  


“FROM does a lot for this community,” she said. “I couldn’t find this type of place in Grand Rapids.” 


In the past, Sjana utilized services at FROM with her family, and saw volunteering at FROM a way to give back to the community that had helped her. Her reason for volunteering is simple: she wants to help others. 


 “I do what I do and that’s all there is to it,” she said.  


When she’s not at FROM, Sjana is likely taking care of animals at the Animal Wildlife Center in Lowell, which she runs. The center takes injured or abandoned animals and nurses them back to health. She takes care of all sorts of animals – including baby squirrels that she feeds around the clock when they’re first born.  


FROM has found a way to support the wildlife center by donating much of the expired food from the food panty to the animals. Kelly Glas, Healthy Foods Program Coordinator, is passionate about limiting the amount of food that is wasted at FROM and is thankful for the partnership with Animal Wildlife Center in Lowell.  


“At FROMs Food Pantry, we greatly focus on doing the right thing with the resources we have been blessed with. Sjana, and the Wildlife Center, has been a pivotal part of making this a reality. Occasionally there will be fresh items that we don’t go through quick enough. Instead of these items ending up in the landfill, we give them to the wildlife center to be used as feed for the animals.” Said Kelly.  


Sjana is very thankful for the support FROM has given both her and the Wildlife Center.  


In the more than a decade since Sjana has been volunteering, she has volunteered nearly 9,000 hours!  


 “Sjana is often here at 6:30 am ready to work in the donation room. We appreciate her faithfulness and dedication to FROM,” said Wendi Priess, the Executive Director. 


Thank you, Sjana, for your passion to serve the Lowell community! FROM is thankful for you.