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The little thrift store that does big things

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Father David Grover, pastor of Saint Clare of Assisi Parish, Gibbstown, stands with Gerry Siglow, the force behind the King’s Things thrift store, and his wife, Barbara.
Photo by Alan M. Dumoff

“The Call to Stewardship” is a periodic series profiling individuals and families throughout the Diocese of Camden who have shown an inspiring response to the call to Christian stewardship highlighted in 1 Peter 4:10 “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

, December 13, 2018

King’s Things is a little thrift store that sits on King’s Highway smack dab in the middle of downtown Swedesboro. Out front on a bright day, there’s a collection of colorful, used bikes sitting alongside old-fashioned baby buggies, and through the window passersby catch glimpses of mismatched china and Phillies’ wear. A sign prominently placed reads, “Peace and Joy to All Who Enter Here.”

Inside, there’s a small team of folks trying their best to do a large amount of good in this small community, and a man, Gerry Siglow, who works hard to keep it all running.

King’s Things, as it turns out, is much more than a thrift store. The store is a retail operation that funds the food pantry and benevolence fund administered by a board of directors that seeks to help the neediest members of the local community.

Siglow serves as the chairman of the board of King’s Things, which was incorporated 35 years ago by five area churches, including Saint Joseph’s, now part of Saint Clare of Assisi Parish. Siglow, a member of Saint Clare, describes the surprising success story behind the modest little store. King’s Things runs at a profit, one that supports several specific “missions,” perhaps most importantly, a food pantry that helps some 2,000 people a year.

With decades of experience in retail management, as well as the mortgage business, Siglow knows how to run a business. Yet it takes more than business acumen to make all of this happen on a budget generated solely from thrift store revenues and the generosity of donors. Sometimes it takes small miracles. Not long ago, a family donated $1,000 to the benevolence fund, telling Siglow that they’d been helped by support from the fund when they were in financial difficulty. Now they wanted to help others.

Siglow is clearly inspired by the everyday goodness he sees in the people who help and are helping at King’s Things.

Involvement at King’s Things crept up on Siglow. He remembers that he first came in to help a friend who needed extra hands to help deliver dinners at Christmas time. And he kept coming back. Gradually, Siglow took on more and more responsibility. At one point, he looked around the store and thought, “If you could increase the revenue, you could help more people.”

And so Siglow set about to do just that, with a lot of help from Carl Rainear, who also came to King’s Things with a career in retail behind him and now manages the store. The two have worked together for 15 years, and as Rainear notes, the work is both “rewarding and heartbreaking.”

Siglow has a “black book,” as he calls it, with lists of agencies that can offer more regular help to those who might need it. And he’s quick to point out that the many volunteers who help keep King’s Things running come from several community churches. Help comes as well from area schools, public and Catholic, which collect donations of toys and food at Christmastime. And, of course, there is government oversite of the operation, taxes to be paid, fire inspections, and all of the details that are part of running any small business. Even though he’s officially retired, some weeks, Siglow admits, volunteering a King’s Things can be a full-time job.

Father David Grover, pastor of Saint Clare, says Siglow helps many people find their way to the additional help they need. “He does a good job of networking with agencies.”

Siglow is the practical and cheerful sort. He sees his years of stewardship as a way of putting his life skills to work to help others.

The giving at King’s Things reaches out in many directions, “like an octopus,” Siglow says, and reflects the generosity of the many volunteers and the creativity of those who now use their life skills to help others.

Proceeds from the King’s Things are the wellspring for a benevolence fund that offers financial support to those in dire need. “We’ve helped people retain their electric service, heat their homes, head off evictions, and literally bury their dead,” says Siglow. He also coordinates a Christmas program that reaches out to more than 180 families, with “turkey or a roasting chicken, a poinsettia, food for a Christmas dinner, and food for a week.” Thanks to help from Christmas drives in local schools and churches, such as Saint Clare, children in the program each receive three to four gifts and senior citizens receive a gift, as well.

Sometimes, the time commitment can be daunting: “When you get a call at 9 p.m. on a Friday night letting you know that someone is about to be evicted, or about to have their utilities cut off, you listen. You know you’re their only hope,” Siglow says

And so Siglow continues to try to help others, relying as he puts it, on a few key living saints in his life, one of them, his wife, “Saint Barbara Siglow, who continues to put up with me.” And then there is “an angel, Father David Grover,” who allows the thrift store to use one of the garages at Saint Clare to store items destined for the sales floor.

Father Grover sees Siglow as more than a manager or facilitator. “He’s a good witness through his work both to the people who have needs and to the many others who help.”

Father Grover is especially gratified at Siglow’s ability to influence others in the parish, drawing on kids in the community at Christmas and Easter. “He’s a good role model as a steward. He demonstrates how to be a partner to people who are in need, [and then] he brings other into service.

“His stewardship of time and talent have been monumental,” he adds.

The King’s Things is located at 1402 King’s Highway in Swedesboro and is open on Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m., and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

The mission of the Office of Stewardship is to help Catholics to live out Christian charity in a sacrificial way that “we might understand the grace that comes from giving back from our blessings so that in all things God may be glorified.” For more information, contact Deacon Russell Davis at 856-583-6102.