Sun City Center's Nearly New Shop has crowds most big box retailers would envy.
Every Wednesday and Saturday the place is jammed with hundreds and hundreds of area residents looking for bargains on everything from clothing, shoes and accessories to housewares, linens and furniture.
All proceeds go to the Interfaith Council of Sun City Center, which awards between $250,000 and $300,000 a year in grants to area nonprofit groups benefiting South Shore residents, and scholarships to high school seniors going on to college or technical school.
"Our community members are our best customers and also our donors," said Jay Sparkman, council president. "Everything at Nearly New is donated. This is not a consignment shop; it's a resale store."
"Resale" is the operative word.
Items don't sit very long in the 5,000-square-foot shop. Its shelves are crammed with merchandise that's priced to move. And customers love that.
"I just bought a pair of New Balance walking shoes for $15 that looked like they were new," said Lynn White of Sun City Center, a Nearly New regular. "I rarely leave the store without something I need, but even when I do it's just fun to look around. You never know what you're going to find."
Ruskin resident Sandy Council, who stops in two or three times a month, agrees.
"I always find quality stuff at good prices," she said. "All of the volunteers are so friendly and helpful. I don't mind spending my money there because I know I'm getting a bargain and it's going to a good cause."
Defining those causes is the job of the council, a nonprofit group of nine Sun City Center houses of worship formed in 1971. It includes Beth Israel Jewish Congregation and the following churches: St. John the Divine Episcopal, Redeemer Lutheran, Prince of Peace Catholic, Trinity Baptist, United Community, St. Andrew Presbyterian, SCC United Methodist and Unitarian Universalist.
Each church has one board member and up to six voting council members.
Grant requests are accepted twice a year in September and January. A grants committee reviews them and makes recommendations to the board, which votes and sends those approved to the council members. Then the board budgets the grant.
Monies are disbursed in November and March.
"We basically focus on health, education and human services," said grants committee chairwoman Roz Cruthis. "Last fall we awarded $82,204 to 15 nonprofit groups, including $2,500 to Samaritan Alzheimer's Auxiliary for Alzheimer's patient caregivers; $5,000 to South Shore United Methodist Church for its Backpacks on a Mission program, which feeds underprivileged children on weekends; $2,872 to Wimauma Elementary School for a larger TV for its media center; and $5,000 to the SCC chapter of the Military Order of World Wars for its youth leadership conference for high school students on civics and government."
The council's scholarship committee awarded $136,000 in scholarships to 68 graduating seniors and continuing college students last year, said scholarship chairwoman Jane Trefren.
The Nearly New Shop is at 1515 Sun City Center Plaza. For more information, call (813) 642-9099.
For information on the Interfaith Council of Sun City Center, call (813) 633-1276 or visit www.interfaithcouncilofsuncitycenter.com.
Contact Lois Kindle at email@example.com.