The Labor of Love

Volunteers at Crown of Life are carrying out a “labor of love” at Mission Wearhouse Thrift Store in Little Canada. This ministry has impacted the lives of people too numerous to count. The pint-sized store, blessed with a bountiful supply of donated items has become a distribution hub for a variety of ministries who serve the needy both locally and internationally. People of all sorts; from the elderly to the unborn, to those as close as the Twin Cities Metro Area and as far away as Russia and Africa, have been touched by their work.
The thrift store, located in a strip mall at 2756 Lake Shore Ave. in Little Canada, is conveniently located next to the New Day Pregnancy Care Center which is partially funded from store sales. Both ministries are overseen by Christian Life Ministries. When the thrift store opened in 2001 the owner offered a low monthly rent along with an option to purchase the strip mall after 1 ½ years.
Early volunteers from Crown of Life, like Dave Danner, Charlene Ohmann, her former husband Earl, and now deceased Chet Witz, had just begun a top to bottom makeover when an enormous supply of donated items landed on the thrift store doorstep; compliments of Wise Penny Thrift Store in Buffalo, Minnesota, which was closing its doors. Volunteers from Christ Lutheran in North St. Paul sprang into action, and by organizing a huge garage sale in the back warehouse area of the store made the first sales. Meanwhile, volunteers were scrubbing, painting, shelving and laying carpet rescued from the old Emanuel School. When the liquor store on Robert St. closed, Charlene’s son, Roger was able to purchase all the steel shelving for $20 and a note from his pastor confirming it was for a non-profit business. “Gently used” clothes racks were acquired after a telephone call alerted the cleaning crew that the racks had been tossed into dumpsters behind a nearby Hilfiger’s clothing store. Even the first cash register was donated.
Charlene, always a sucker for high adventure, and without any retail experience, decided along with her side-kick, Deb Mayer to volunteer as co-managers. “There was a lot of trial and error,” recalled Charlene with a chuckle.
A call went out for more volunteers and donations. Both came flooding in. From wedding dresses to wading pools, crock pots to fine crystal serving dishes, a smorgasbord of bundles and boxes began to fill the back garage. Volunteers sorted clothes by gender, size and, since it’s Minnesota, by season. Electrical items like griddles and lamps were tested before going out on the sales floor. Dusty knickknacks were washed and shoes polished. Word began to spread about the clean, well stocked little thrift store with the low prices.
In the meantime, Christian Life Ministries made a leap of faith and bought the strip mall. They were now landlords for a dry cleaner, beauty salon and pizza joint. When the dry cleaner decided to close, Charlene proposed a furniture show room for the space. It was a great idea, because the money generated from furniture sales was more than would have been collected in rent.
The Mission Wearhouse has assisted a variety of ministries supplying much needed items to people near and far. Wether it be sending several shipments to the Hibbing Iron Range during layoffs, replenishing clothing and items in short supply to the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center in St. Paul, or supporting a mission in Africa with 25 boxes of freshly washed clothes and shoes, Mission Wearhouse has always taking the opportunity to help those in need.
Currently, walkers, crutches and wheel chairs are reserved for a ministry that ships medical supplies to Africa. Baby items like play pens, high chairs, strollers, and cribs are delivered next door to New Day Pregnancy Center. A recycler stops by and pays a small pittance for recyclable goods. Even rags are gathered for a ministry that forwards them to Russia. No donation is wasted.
Today, Mike Koepke has taken over as the new manager. He has very big shoes to fill and has made some updates starting with a small name change to New Day Mission Wearhouse thrift store. Along with a name change, the building has undergone substantial refurbishing due to damage from a car that crashed into the building. From roof replacement, to exterior work, to new windows and signage, – by God’s grace, all were covered by insurance!
The thrift store is powered by volunteers. If you would like to be a part of this labor of love please call 651-917-4149. For sale events and fundraising opportunities go to