SUBSCRIBE NOW

#SWFLstrong — Shopping for hope: Bargain Basket helps Habitat for Humanity families

Lisa Conley
lisa.conley@naplesnews.com; 239-213-5308

Editor's note: This is the latest story in the #SWFLstrong series, profiling individuals making a positive difference in the community. These articles will be featured on a regular basis in the Collier Citizen, Marco Eagle and The Banner.

Bargain Basket is one of United Church of Marco Island’s many mission programs, and it’s been assisting families in need for almost four decades; church members help build Habitat for Humanity homes for local families, and then help those families further by giving them money to shop at Bargain Basket.
Pastor Chris Sheriff stands at Bargain Basket's front counter.

Many people know that Bargain Basket is Marco Island’s only thrift shop, but what they might not know is that it’s owned and operated by the United Church of Marco Island, and it’s actually much more than just a thrift shop.

Bargain Basket is one of United Church of Marco Island’s many mission programs, and it’s been assisting families in need for almost four decades; church members help build Habitat for Humanity homes for local families, and then help those families further by giving them money to shop at Bargain Basket.

“We’ve been partnering with Habitat for Humanity since it was first established in Collier County,” which was 39 years ago, said Pastor Chris Sheriff – United Church of Marco Island and Bargain Basket’s director of outreach and retail marketing. “The church wanted to partner with a community organization and it seemed like a good fit. So we help build the homes and then give the families $500 to spend in the store to help furnish their new home.”

Of course, if they want to spend that money on clothes or other items instead, that’s fine; whatever helps the family the most, Sheriff said, adding that they try to make it as convenient as possible for families to visit the store.

Left to right: Rev. Mark Williams of United Church of Marco Island, Joanna Scalora, her daughter Angelica, and Curt Gillespie of Habitat for Humanity.

"We try to focus on families that work on Marco but live in Naples,” he said, “so it’s easy for them to stop by the store after work, buy what they need and then bring it home with them.”

The church supports one family per month January through April, but this year it's taking on an additional family for a total of five.

“It’s going to take a bit of maneuvering to figure out how to fund an extra family,” Sheriff said, “but that means that one more family will get the help they need, and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.”

The Scaloras are one family that’s benefited from the hard work of Sheriff and the other church volunteers. Joanna Scalora works at the Island Country Club on Marco, and her daughter, Angelica, is a straight-A student at Gulfview Middle School where she’s a member of the tennis team and plays trumpet in the school band.

The two were living in a rundown house with high rent before moving into a Habitat for Humanity home, which allowed Angelica to finally have her own room.

Left to right: Bargain Basket volunteers Arleen Soldano, Lee Turner and Gail O'Connor sort through donations.

Sue Woods, Bargain Basket’s manager for the past six years, said it’s that sort of success story that makes the mission worthwhile.

“I call it a win-win-win situation,” she said with a laugh, “because the families win, the shoppers win and the mission [of the church] wins, so it helps everybody.”

The United Church of Marco Island’s Bargain Basket doesn’t just support local families in need; it also helps families across the globe. When Hurricane Matthew hit last fall, Bargain Basket donated 80 pieces of children’s clothing, 64 pieces of men and women’s clothing, sheets, pillows and blankets to Freeport, Bahama, which was devastated by the hurricane.

To assist with its many missions, Bargain Basket relies on the help of 125 full- and part-time volunteers – including long-time volunteers Arleen Soldano, Lee Turner, Gail O’Connor, Deanna Yates and Hanna Machesney – but there can never be enough helping hands.

“We’re always looking for more volunteers so we can continue to grow and help families in needs,” Woods said.

They’re also always looking to emphasize the connection between the church and the Bargain Basket, Sheriff said, because even though the church’s name is on the building, people often overlook it, and thus don’t realize that by shopping there, they’re supporting a worthy cause.

Left to right: Deanna Yates, Sue Woods and Hanna Machesney work the front counter at Bargain Basket.

“The church is the Bargain Basket and the Bargain Basket is the church,” he said. “The money people spend here doesn’t go back into someone’s pocket, but back out into the community and back into the ministry machine.”

The United Church of Marco Island’s Bargain Basket supports several other organizations, as well, including: Grace Place for Children and Families; Meals of Hope; Marco Island Academy; Marketplace Mission Learning Center; Liberty Youth Ranch; the Shelter for Abused Women and Children; the Greater Marco Family YMCA; and Our Daily Bread Food Pantry.

Bargain Basket is located at 750 Bald Eagle Drive and is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It’s hosting a “Couture du Jour” fashion show at 2 p.m., Feb. 16. The event is $20 per person with proceeds benefiting Liberty Youth Ranch.

Watch Sheriff's interview