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Thrifty Threads serves those with special needs and the community as well

By John Weiss, March 21, 2024

Kelli Pierce, Activities Director at Thrifty Threads in Preston, helps Mikki hang donated clothing on the sale rack. (Photo by John Weiss)

Thrifty Threads serves those with special needs and the community as well


PRESTON — Though sunny and warm, business was slow the afternoon of February 27 at the Thrifty Threads thrift shop in the Fillmore County Development Achievement Center (DAC) in Preston.

It had about six customers in the morning, but then business quit. Kelli Pierce, Activities Director, speculated people were waiting for the $10 all-you-can-put-into-a-bag sale the following weekend (the store at 108 Park Lane SE has that sale the first full weekend of each month).

The slow time gave her a chance to chat about the history of the shop and what it means to people who need the center, who she calls co-workers or clients. “They are co-workers because they work right along with us,” she said. 

As she talked, singing came from an adjacent room. “That’s Mikki,” she said. “She loves to sing as she shreds documents for our customers.” 

Mikki watched a video of Grease, singing along, while shredding documents for DAC clients. (Photo by John Weiss)

She was watching a video of the iconic film “Grease.” Like many co-workers, she also helps launder donated items, puts them on hangers and places them on racks to be sold. “Mikki does a little bit of everything,” she said. “We do quite a lot of shredding.”

The DAC serves 32 people. It has all kinds of adults with special needs. Kelly said, “We have autism, mental illness, physical ailments, wheelchair bound individuals, non-verbal, verbal.” 

They live away from the center but come there for some training and also to work at sites across the city, county and region under the supervision of employment coaches. Pierce said, “They do janitorial work, help rearrange furniture, things like that.”

The center was formed in the 1970s by the county and parents who needed places that could care for their special needs children. As for Thrifty Threads, open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, it began in 1988 in downtown Preston but moved to the present location about 15 years ago. It usually has four to six people working there, but that day it was down to Mikki and Jessica. 

They get donations of everything you can think of—knickknacks, shoes, clothes (lots of clothes), belts, jewelry, bedding, books, and videos. One person that day brought in two round metal bowls with a wide rim with big holes in it. Kelli wasn’t sure what it was but a label on the bottom said it was for feeding chicks. Okay, they were put up for sale. If T-shirts are too torn or worn to be sold, they are cut up into rags to be used at job sites.

Customers? “They vary,” Pierce said, “but many are thrifters who are looking for 50 cent men’s socks, children’s clothes from 75 cents to $1.50, toys, jewelry. It’s great for parents of young children because they either grow out of clothes or ruin them quickly.”

Thrifty Threads gets donated items from the public for resale in the store. (Photo by John Weiss)


On the Job Training

Profits go back to the co-workers. “It’s their pay checks,” Pierce said. 

With that, she went to see Mikki, who has been with the DAC for about 20 years, as she shredded; I pointed my camera at her and she broke into a big grin—she likes cameras.

She didn’t say much but when asked if she worked hard, she said, “Yes.”

Doe she like watching “Grease?” “Yes.”

Is she having fun? “Yes.”

Out of the blue, she told me she had two balloons, given to her by a DAC staffer and taped to adjacent furniture.

Does she like putting clothes on hangers? “Yes.”

Kelli and Jessica, who is wheelchair bound, look at a toy called Little Live Pets that has a talking parrot. Jessica priced it at $1. (Photo by John Weiss)

Pierce went back to the store and brought down Jessica who needs a wheelchair. She’s been with the DAC about 10 years and likes to look through things, sort things and especially be around when shoppers come with their dogs. And best of all is when her grandparents come.

The two looked at a toy called Little Live Pets that had a parrot that talked. Jessica looked at it, apparently wondering what it was.

“How much should we mark it?” Pierce said.

Jessica thought about it and decided $1 was right. Pierce gave her a $1 sticker and she put it on.

Next to it was an Aggravation game that should have 24 marbles. How about counting them? Pierce said. Jessica slowly took them out one at a time and put them in holes on the game board. After five, the marbles broke loose. It is called Aggravation after all. But eventually, she found there were at least 24 marbles.

“That was educational,” Pierce said. “It helps with counting, it helps with small-motor skills.  There is some education going on as we’re always trying to teach and learn new skills all the time.”

Jessica had to leave and Pierce went back to see Mikki. She had finished putting the basket of clothes on hangers and then on a rack. They took them to the main store. She smiled every time I pointed the camera at her.

Then it was back to the back room where Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta were singing “You’re The One That I Want”. Good timing, it was time to go.

Pierce wrote a note to her caregivers about how the day went. She wrote: “It was a good day.”

It was time to close Thrifty Threads, but not before I bought a Joyce Carol Oates book for 50 cents.  You can’t beat that!




John Weiss was a full-time reporter for the Rochester Post-Bulletin for 41 years and wrote the Back Roads column for more than 10 years. His passions include hunting, fishing, birding, nature photography, hiking and just kicking around.

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