Many communities have a community resale or thrift store that offers assistance for individuals and families in need through donated items. So, in that regard, today’s organization is not unique. However, today’s organization does serve as a great example of the community coming together.
The PROP Shop is located in Eden Prairie, Minnesota and has a mission to provide basic support for families in need through volunteers, community, and other organizations.
The PROP Shop’s creation was a direct result of the rapidly changing demographics of the Eden Prairie community. According to Hunger Solutions Minnesota, Eden Prairie experienced a 541% increase in food shelf usage between 2000 and 2004. A separate non-profit food shelf and community service organization called PROP (People Reaching out to Other People), received increased pressure to provide food and emergency services. Due to significant limitations on space and resources, PROP was unable to meet the growing need for clothing, household goods, and furniture. Concerned community members saw a need to expand the services available to local families and looked to other nearby communities to see how they met these needs in their communities. These community members then decided to form an organization that would accept donations to provide free clothing and furniture to families in need. After several attempts to secure a free space were unsuccessful, they adjusted their vision to include a resale store to cover the operating costs of the organization and raise funds for social service agencies. In April 2007, the PROP Shop opened and is celebrating their 5th anniversary this year.
The PROP Shop has truly been a community effort from the beginning. In their first five years more than 1,300 people have volunteered and more than 6,900 people have donated goods. With those donations, 1,400 families have been helped with basic needs such as clothing, household goods, and furniture conservatively valued at more than $500,000. They recently gave out our 725th bed to a family in need. They even do their best to pass forward donations they cannot use. For example, ratty towels go to Humane Society and single bed sheets go to a local church for a quilting project.
The PROP Shop helped a family who recently immigrated to the United States from Moldova, a country in Europe bordering Romania and Ukraine. When staff and volunteers first met the mother of this family of four, she spoke practically no English and needed a translator. The PROP Shop provided the family with beds, a kitchen table and chairs, clothes, and much more. The next summer, she began volunteering at the PROP Shop to practice her English. She wanted to give back to the PROP Shop for all of the help that it had provided to her family. She quickly formed friendships with volunteers and has most recently launched her own catering business. She still volunteers at least once a week and often helps us translate with other clients.
The PROP Shop also calls out specific needs on their Facebook page. One day I saw a post for a double stroller and just happened to have one we were no longer using and posted a comment. I dropped it off that weekend and it went to a family in need.
Recently the PROP Shop received even more support from the business community. They were trying to determine how to expand their space. Hansen Thorp Pellinen Olson, Inc (HTPO) was recommended to help them survey the land around their building. HTPO helped them navigate changes and wetland appraisals to donate time for land surveying, civil engineering, and landscape plans. The Eden Prairie campus of the Hennepin Technical College located just miles from the PROP Shop, agreed to do carpentry as a part of a course. Then the project hit a roadblock, their plans for a separate building were put in jeopardy because of their location near a pond. It was then that the PROP Shop attended a local Rotary meeting to give a presentation about their organization and happened to meet an architect that volunteered his time to design an addition rather than a new building. The architect also connected them with a structural engineer to examine the structure of the building. This construction project has received support from the community by one person connecting them to another person or company. They now have their paving, dirt, and landscaping lined up as well as discounts on other necessary work. You can see up-to-date information on their construction project as well as a list of all their supporters on their website.
How can you help the PROP Shop?
- They always need volunteer for all times they are open (currently Tuesday through Sunday) for tasks such as donation sorting, displaying merchandise and organizing items for families in need.
- They also accept in-kind donations of household items, furniture, and clothing. You can see what items they can (and cannot) accept on their website. If you have something they cannot accept, they even offer suggestions of other organizations that can accept it.
- They also accept monetary donations on the website, in person, or through the mail.
You can learn more about the PROP Shop on their website, www.propshopep.org. You can also follow them on Facebook and sign up for their e-mail newsletter (which includes resale store coupons) on their website.