As St. Paul exhorted the Church to be the Body of Christ, so the motto of PennyWise Thrift Shop could be “God’s work, our hands.” For the past 28 years, PennyWise has raised and distributed $2,329,929 to charities in Lee and Collier Counties as well as to the building, endowment and operation of St. Mary’s Church.
We are called to be mindful that In Lee County, in households with members under 18-years-old, 25.2 per cent live in poverty; in neighboring Collier County, the poverty rate for the same demographic is 22.9 per cent. This is the community that PennyWise is dedicated to serve, both in providing low cost, gently used merchandise for sale and with donating cash grants for organizations that serve the poor.
St. Mary’s Outreach Commission reviews grant applications from local charities to decide which agencies will receive support. In 2017, $50,000 was distributed among the following applicants:
- Bonita Springs Assistance
- Café of Life
- Gabriel House
- Harvest Time Ministries
- Literacy Council Gulf Coast
- Love INC
- Meals on Wheels of Bonita Springs
- Smith India Ministry
- Dominican Republic Alberque
- Our Mother’s House of SWF
- Camp Able (St. Mark’s Project)
- Liberty Youth Ranch of Bonita Springs
- DaySpring Pool Fund
- Place of Hope in Haiti
- New Horizons of Bonita Springs
- After the Rain of SWF
With items in the store priced to sell from dimes and quarters to somewhat larger dollar amounts, it takes a lot of donated merchandise and volunteers to raise the $100,000 that is evenly divided between outreach grants and the parish every January. More than 100 volunteers, mostly seasonal residents and several who aren’t parish members, donate their time each week to staffing the shop where new recruits are always welcome.
It all began in 1989 when four women from the parish, including Jean Harper, wife of the then-rector, each chipped in $1,000 to rent a store front in a strip mall on Bonita Beach Road and opened the first PennyWise shop where it remained until 2004. By that time, the shop had earned enough money to substantially contribute to building the current sanctuary and Parish Life Center on the church campus property and PennyWise moved into the former church building.
Long time St. Mary’s parishioners sometimes come into the shop and fondly recall the building’s origins when it served as the center of all parish life. “Oh, the altar was here and the office was there and the parish secretary sat in this spot,” the say as they point out corners of the building that now house sections for men’s and women’s clothing, boutique clothing, furniture, small appliances, books, etc.
As you drive along Bonita Beach Road past St. Mary’s Church driveway, it would be easy to miss the humble little white stuccoed thrift shop that sits in the shadow of its giant neighbor, First Presbyterian Church of Bonita Springs. But we invite you to notice and stop in to PennyWise, ask about becoming a volunteer once a week for three hours. It’s always a friendly place to chat with shoppers and make friends while you answer St. Paul’s call.
Annual Meeting of PennyWise Volunteers
PennyWise accepts donations of jewelry, clothes, shoes, household items, furniture, small appliances, bedding, walking aids. Presently, we do not accept large appliances (mainly because of lack of space), computer components, used toiletry appliances, etc. To arrange a pick-up of large furniture donations, call the shop and ask to speak with the day manager.
Hours at PennyWise are Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.