Building the Valley: Bargain-priced clothing and homewares help people at Agape Thrift Store in Harrison

Since at least the mid-1980s, the Agape Thrift Store in Harrison has been helping people improve their wardrobe and self-esteem.

The thrift store tucked away in the basement of Grace United Methodist Church at 1333 Freeport Road opens from 1-4 p.m. Wednesday.

In just three hours a week, dozens of people walk through the doors asking for help with work clothes, children’s shoes and countless other items.

“We’re usually very busy,” said Carol Peters, a Harrison Church parishioner and pantry manager. “We usually have a crowd waiting for us when we open.”

The most popular items are dress clothes for workers and everything for babies and toddlers.

“I’m totally out of baby clothes right now,” Peters said. “We get people who have all kinds of circumstances. Sometimes it’s grandparents who are suddenly raising young children. Sometimes it’s people who are out of work and can’t afford to buy clothes for a new job.

“I’m just glad we have a mission that helps everyone.”

Grace UMC has been prominent along Freeport Road since 1928. Pastor Diane Curry-Randolph said Agape’s mission was not to raise money for the church.

“It’s about building community,” she says.

Peters, who leads a team of five volunteers, said Agape partners with the Allegheny Valley Association of Churches to provide free clothing to those in need.

“Even without a voucher, you can fill a brown paper grocery bag for $3,” she said. “You can put a lot of clothes in this bag.”

Hannah Simmers of New Kensington is a regular customer. She shows up on Wednesdays to peruse the two rooms, filled with everything from holiday decor and glassware to personal care items and jewelry.

This week, she bought a massive stack of Christmas window stickers, gift tags and puzzles for $7.25.

“I normally come every week,” Simmers said. “My mom and I also like to go to Goodwill and shop around to see what we can find.”

Shoppers at the Grace UMC fortune store are likely to find high-end merchandise at bargain prices. On the shelves now are women’s Naturalizer shoes for $2, an Eddie Bauer goose down vest for $2.50 and a slew of paperbacks for 25 cents each.

“There are a lot of people who have nothing, or next to nothing,” said Kathy Russell, a retired teacher from Winchester Thurston who lives in Harrison.

Russell is a church member who has volunteered once a month for the past decade.

“It’s great to see what we can do to help out here,” she said.

Anyone interested in donating to the thrift store can visit during opening hours or leave bags on the church’s covered porch.

Tawnya Panizzi is editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Tawnya at 724-226-7726, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Elizabeth J. Harless