Meet our new Staff Members!

Join us as we welcome Three new FROM staff members, Autumn Aldridge, Leah Groves and Cindy Dawes!


Autumn Aldridge

It’ll be Autumn greeting you as you enter FROM, serving as our new Office Administrator. Autumn was joined FROM at the end of February and is very happy about working for such a wonderful organization. “I love this organization and all that they do.” She shared.

Autumn looks forward to being part of the team while creating a welcoming experience for all. She has a heart for helping people and is looking forward to doing just that!


Leah Groves

Leah is FROM’s new Development Coordinator. She started in Early March. You may be wondering what a Development Coordinator does and we’re glad you’re curious! Leah will be focusing on marketing FROM programs to help raise awareness of their availability. Leah is passionate about creating connections between resources available and the community members in need. She often says, “Accessibility is everything!”

Outside of working hours, Leah serves as a Lowell City councilmember. In between work and her council duties, she enjoys spending her time with her sons, Lleyton and Beck.

Cindy Dawes

                Cindy Dawes stopped in to FROM to shop one day and decided she liked it so much she’d like to stick around! Cindy will be joining us as our new Sales Associate in Treasures Thrift Shop. Cindy is looking forward to giving back to the community while meeting new people and building lasting friendships.

Spending time with her husband, daughters and grandchildren is very important to Cindy. If Cindy is not working or spending time with her family and friends, she enjoys completing jigsaw puzzles!         

Next time you stop in at FROM, be sure to say ‘Hello!’ to Autumn, Leah and Cindy!

“I still haven’t found that book”

For George Watson, Monday morning is one of the most enjoyable parts of the week. George has volunteered at 

FROM (Flat River Outreach Ministries) for nearly a decade. His time is spent sorting books and preparing the book section of Treasures Thrift Store. George has also enjoyed creating friendships with volunteers who work in the same time slot as him over the years.  


George began volunteering with FROM after searching in the thrift store for a book about woodworking.  He developed a love for the section and decided he wanted to be involved.  


“I still haven’t found that book,” he laughed.  


Since then, George has sorted and sold many kinds of books but highlights the faith section as one of his favorites.   


“I think it is important to provide the community with religious material,” he said. George has enjoyed working with many volunteers over the years, including Donna Jean Ford, who passed away in 2020. You can read her story here. He and his fellow book department volunteers are all incredibly passionate about their positions. 


 “We are all very detail oriented,” he said. “Empty shelves don’t sell books.”  


Outside of FROM, George loves to spend time in his hobbies, which include Woodworking, farming, and tractors. Working in the book department has also given George a chance to expand his knowledge on these hobbies through books he purchased and read.  


“I love seeing all the different texts,” he said. “I am one of my own best customers.”  


“As an avid reader myself, I so appreciate what George and everyone in the book department does,” Arianne Hall, Development Director said. “I always find such fun books at FROM. You can tell the passion George has for books through the displays! I’m so thankful for his passion about FROM and his hard work!” 

Thank you, George, we appreciate everything you do and for the more than 1,600 hours you’ve given to your community through volunteering!   


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. 


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.