Donation Tips

Each morning, volunteers at FROM (Flat River Outreach Ministries) prepare to sort another day’s worth of donations for the Thrift Store. Large, colorful bins spread out along the concrete floor of the donation room hold the items as volunteers prepare them to go out on the shelves.

The donations from the Lowell community are a vital part of running the thrift store and FROM has been blessed to receive nearly 300 donations every week. These donations help stock the thrift store floor. They also generate needed funding for the mission of FROM, such as helping to fund the more than a dozen programs FROM offers the Greater Lowell Community throughout the year.

“We so appreciate the generous support from our community to keep Treasures Thrift Store stocked with quality items.” said Executive Director Wendie Preiss.

Unfortunately, among the hundreds of donations, many items are forced to be thrown out because they do not meet the guidelines of FROM’s donation policy, are broken, or damaged in a way they can’t be sold. The buildup of trash is a natural part of any thrift store’s operation, but in excessive amounts, it can be unsafe and costly to the store.

To help limit the amount of waste generated by the thrift store, we have a handful of tips to share. It is important to follow the guidelines posted on the FROM’s website or on the white sign hanging on the wall of the donation room.

Treasures Thrift Store Donation Tips:

Make sure your donations are clean and in good condition

 Be sure to run any clothes through a washing machine and clean any other dirty items before dropping them off at FROM. FROM unfortunately does not have the ability to wash clothes, or clean and fix all items. This means that it is very important to donate items that are still in good condition. Dirty clothes, dishes and broken furniture are typically thrown away.


Make sure items are gently used

 “It is important to make sure your items are gently used and in good condition,” Laura Bradeen, the former Thrift Store Manager, said. “We want to make sure we are providing quality items to our customers.” A good guideline before bringing your items in is whether they are in a condition in which you or a friend might purchase them. If the answer is no, it might be a good time to recycle the items, or turn clothing into rags to use around your house!


 Package your donations well

Another tip is to package all your items neatly together, especially if your item has multiple parts. Volunteers sort hundreds of donations a week and keeping your donations packaged neatly can help the process, and also ensure nothing is broken. Carol Guyer, a volunteer who has spent countless hours sorting through donations points out the importance of packing the donations safely. “Make sure you keep your things together and pack them in a way that they will not break when they are handled. Especially when donating fragile items,” she said.


Follow the guidelines for what items are accepted

 It is always important to be aware of the guidelines for what can be accepted. Information on these can be found on the website or in the donation room. Items such as electronics or damaged clothes cannot be accepted or resold. Additionally, electronics cost an extra charge to dispose of because they cannot be thrown away normally. FROM spent $600 on electronics alone in 2021.


Following these tips and guidelines is important. Donations that are not accepted often have to be thrown away, or many hours of time have to go into securing another location to send the items to. This also costs additional time and resources that would be put towards other FROM programs. Currently, volunteers say broken and unsellable items take up 12 large trash cans every day.

The cost to dispose of these items has also increased. Between January and July of 2021, FROM spent about $3,000 on trash removal services alone. Through that same time span in 2022, that number has raised to $3,500.

The consistent donations the thrift store has seen are greatly appreciated and Treasures Thrift Store would not be possible without them. Volunteers are excited every day to sort donated items to uncover new treasures for shoppers! We need help from everyone who donates to FROM to help lower the amount of waste generated by the store so we can direct more funds to further the mission of FROM.

“We want every customer to feel dignified and valued when they shop with us. We offer quality items that any of us would purchase,” Wendie Preiss said. “The store is essential in providing funding for programs and offering affordable and quality items to our community and it also brings dignity and value to each customer.”


2022 Volunteer Appreciation

Giving FROM the heart

“I give from my heart because I love this place and I love Lowell,” Carol Guyer said.

Carol has been a faithful volunteer for FROM since 2009, when she and her husband began working in the donation room.


Other volunteers fondly remember Carol and her husband, John, laughing and calling after each other as they joyfully buzzed around the building getting things ready to be sold in Treasures Thrift Store.

John passed away in 2018, after 41 years of marriage. “I continue volunteering because this is my home and happy place,” Carol says. “If I didn’t, I’d be sitting at home crying.”
Carol and John Guyer have become such

pillars in the FROM family and community. Carol currently holds the record for the most volunteer hours, with 17,000 hours! Carol currently spends most of her time in the new donation room, which is named after her and her husband, and at the cash register, helping things to run smoothly.

FROM isn’t just a place to spend your time, it’s also somewhere you can take part in a new community and build new friendships all while making an impact on the greater Lowell
community. If you spend any time with Carol, you’ll also receive an overflowing dose of laughter.
Carol says, “if I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t do it.”

Meet Our New Staff!


Lynn Wilson

Lynn joined our staff as the Volunteer Coordinator. After working with companies such as Whirlpool and AYSO Lynn heard about FROM through friends and knew she’d be a great fit.

Lynn is excited meet new people and help bring new ideas to our team and support the mission. Her fun fact is that she has 3 kids, a dog and three cats and loves to knit socks. We are excited for Lynn to join this community!


Lauren Johnson

Lauren joined our staff as the Thrift Store Manager. Lauren has worked in retail for more than 10 years, most recently managing a CVS before accepting her role at FROM. She lives in Lowell and was inspired to apply to FROM after seeing the way it has impacted her community.

She is excited to begin her role and get to know everyone here. When Lauren isn’t at work, she likes to read, fish, or crochet. Her fun fact is that she loves to collect Converse Shoes and has an impressive collection. We are excited to welcome Lauren to the staff!



Nikki Snyder

Nikki has been involved in the Lowell community for the past 10 years and was involved in the Lowell Community Wellness. She is our Office Administrator. She is excited for her role at FROM because of the opportunity it will give her to serve and get to know the community. Her fun fact is that she started the Pink Arrow flash mob 10 years ago. (You can watch the video on YouTube!)

How are Mondays going?

After opening on Mondays, Treasures Thrift Store has received a highly positive response from customers. 10:00 am on Monday mornings now feature an excited crowd lined up outside FROM’s doors, eager to participate in the promotional sales. Opening the store brought additional foot traffic and excited customers who helped raise nearly 13,000 dollars over the first four Mondays. “We are excited to have such a positive response from our customers. The extra sales will help us further the support of the company mission and help more families in the Lowell community.” Said Laura Bradeen, the former Store Manager. The funds generated from the sales will help support programs such as our backpack program or help our connections office serve more people through financial assistance. Mondays have been a big success for the Thrift Store, and we hope to see more customers flood our store in the future.

Meet Our New Staff Member!


Nikki Snyder

Nikki has been involved in the Lowell community for the past 10 years and was involved in the Lowell Community Wellness. She is our Office Administrator. She is excited for her role at FROM because of the opportunity it will give her to serve and get to know the community. Her fun fact is that she started the Pink Arrow flash mob 10 years ago. (You can watch the video on YouTube!)

Congratulations to Team South!

After a month of friendly but fierce competition, Team South has emerged victorious in FROM’s (Flat River Outreach Ministries) annual Food Fight Campaign.  

From May 1 – June 1 the nonprofit encouraged the Greater Lowell community to give from the heart to see who can raise the most resources.  

The campaign divided the Greater Lowell Community into two teams – Team North and Team South with M-21 splitting the teams. Each dollar and food item donated to FROM counted as a point for that team. Combined, Team North and Team South totaled 11,000 food items and $145,000 in financial donations. This equaled 156,455 points which surpassed FROM’s goal of reaching 150,000 points.  

“Thank you to everyone who participated in Food Fight – whether you made a financial donation, collected food, were a food collection site for us, or shared our Social Media posts,” Arianne Hall, FROM Development Director said. “You make it possible for us to reach our neighbors in need – every day. We truly could not do what we do without you!”  

Although Food Fight is over, the community can still get involved by donating on our website at  

Thrift Store Now Open Mondays!

For Treasures Thrift Store, Mondays have always been bustling with volunteers excited prepare the shop for the week and interact with one another. Now the community will be able to join in the excitement that Mondays bring. We are excited to announce that FROM will be opening Treasures Thrift shop on Mondays starting June 6. Rather than locked doors, shoppers will be met with open arms of volunteers and employees eager to serve the community.

Shoppers will have the opportunity to start their week by browsing our shelves packed with a variety of items. Big promotional sales will be held each Monday to help celebrate the opening. June 6 will be a 10$ red bag sale and all other Mondays will be 75% off clothing.

Treasures Thrift Store has already seen improvements such as new front room displays and signs, the expansion of several departments, and a new community bulletin board. The thrift store has played an important role in both the lives of our customers and the support of our other programs. All of the proceeds from Treasures Thrift Store help support the mission of FROM. That means funds help serve the more than 600 families who utilize programs at FROM each year. We are excited for this opening to be another way FROM can serve the community and continue the thrift shop’s recent success.

“I am excited to have this opportunity to provide our customers with more options to fit their shopping needs. The additional funds will support our mission and provide additional resources to our community,” said Laura Bradeen, the thrift store manager.

To help support Treasures Thrift Store, come shop on Mondays or sign up to volunteer. We are in need of people to run the cash register or sort donations on Monday. Having a full roster of volunteers is important to provide the necessary time and care needed to give our customers a wonderful shopping experience.

The store will be open on Monday starting on June 6 from 10AM-6PM. This is in addition to being open Tuesday-Saturday 10AM-6PM and Saturday 10AM-2PM.

Meet our Summer Interns!

We’re excited to introduce two Marketing Communications Interns this summer! Andrew and Liz will be helping us with Social Media and blog posts, writing and so much more throughout this summer. Let’s get to know them


Andrew Boersema

Hi, my name is Andrew Boersema. I am currently a senior studying strategic communications and journalism at Calvin University. I grew up in the Ada/Lowell area and have been around this community for most of my life. I am thrilled to be joining FROM as a communications and marketing intern because it gives me a chance to apply what I have learned through Calvin into a place that helps benefit the community I grew up in. Working at a non-profit organization that aligns with my beliefs is an encouraging start to my professional development. I am excited to use my creativity and writing skills to help FROM make a lasting impact on the city of Lowell. When I am not working or studying, I enjoy watching or playing sports, cooking, or spending time outdoors hiking and camping.



Elizabeth Rohling                                                             

Hello, My name is Elizabeth Rohling and I am working towards a bachelors degree in marketing
at Cornerstone University as well as a minor in Digital Media. I am very excited to be working for
a non-profit and I can’t wait to learn the new skills that this company offers. I know that there will
be many challenges as there is for every company but what makes FROM different is the

community. I noticed it the second I came in for an interview and it has only been cemented as I

have begun to meet everyone. It has always been important for me to work somewhere where it
is very team oriented and everyone works together. I believe this company is just that which is
why I was very excited when I got the job offer to help find ways to let more people know about
this great organization.


Teaming Up to Aid Ukraine

Currently in our Medical Equipment Loan Closet, the regular team of volunteers who clean our donated equipment, are collecting items to be sent to Ukraine.

FROM periodically receives items that we are not able to use, so these items will be shared with communities who most need them.   

“Life is so difficult there right now and we want to do our part to help,” lead medical loan volunteer, Denise, said.  “We don’t want any of our donations to go to waste, so we are sending the items FROM is unable to distribute to Ukraine.”   

Denise is working with St. Michael Ukrainian Catholic Church in Grand Rapids to get supplies to Chicago, where it will be sent out to Poland, to care for the injured Ukrainian refugees and to be dispersed into Ukraine.   

The items being collected include unused ace bandage wraps, gauze, suture kits, and bandages. If you have items you’d like to donate to this cause specifically, please bring them to our front office, and Denise and her team will make sure it’s included.  

Our goal is to use your gifts to cause the maximum amount of good in not only our community, but also the world at large. 

Learning Something New – Cooking Classes at FROM

Mid-February we hosted our second Healthy Cooking Class! Led by MSU Extension, the evening was filled with a fun environment to learn cooking skills and be hands on in the cooking process.


Nearly a dozen people came to the event to learn knife skills to cut different vegetables, all of helped build the meal. The best part? Enjoying a delicious chicken stir-fry dinner at the end!


“It was a fun way for my family to do something together and to enjoy a fresh meal,” one attendee shared.


The Healthy Cooking classes were launched Fall 2021 to encourage community members to cook at home with fresher, healthier, and more nutrient dense ingredients.


“These classes are also to empower individuals to grow their skills and knowledge in order to feel confident in the kitchen,” Kelly Glas, FROM Healthy Food Program Coordinator shared. “I love being able to take part in these classes and learn something new during each one!”


Healthy Cooking Classes are open to the public and will be offered all throughout 2022! Be sure to watch Facebook, or join the FROM email list to hear about the next event coming in May!

Bob Shares his Mobile Food Pantry Experience

When I volunteer at FROM’s Mobile Food Pantry, I see myself in every vehicle that pulls up, pops their trunk and leaves with a few boxes of food.

In the Fall of 2001, I stood in line at the Kent County Youth Fair Grounds with a couple of bags under my arm waiting for the doors at Flat River Outreach Ministries (FROM) Mobile Food Pantry to open.

I had been let go from a well-paying job and found myself on unemployment just 12 months after purchasing a new home in downtown Lowell and a new car.

I quickly burnt through my savings and lived off from a part-time job and unemployment checks. I took a second part-time job selling Christmas trees at a local farm stand because I didn’t want to live off from just unemployment… and, I couldn’t. I was required to claim that income which dramatically reduced my unemployment benefits.

With a lot of budgeting, coupon cutting and food from FROM, I was able to make ends meet until I landed my current job that following summer.

Our neighbors who utilize FROM’s Mobile Food Pantry (and more than a dozen other programs at FROM) have found themselves in a situation where they’ve realized they need a little help.

For most of us it takes a lot to ask, show up and receive help. It sure was for me.

I remember seeing people I knew handing me food. I felt ashamed and embarrassed at first, but then I could see their compassion in their eyes, love in their smiles and generosity in their hands. They were there to help unconditionally, no matter what.

If you need help, you can come to FROM. And if you want to help others, the answer is the same: you can come to FROM to volunteer, drop off your unwanted treasures to the thrift store or donate your financial blessings generously.