KAUKAUNA — Sue Van Nuland has made it her life’s mission to be kind to others. It sounds so simple and yet it seems so hard for people to do. “It’s so important. There’s not so much of that around,” she said.
As one of six daughters in her family, Van Nuland grew up watching kindness in action. “My dad was always involved in charities and we went along. We went to Goodwill and picked up bags of stuff and brought it to different homes. We always found clearance candy at the stores and we would deliver it to the nursing homes. My dad was always like that,” she recalled.
Van Nuland is from Kimberly, but when she and her husband, Gary, were raising their son and daughter, they lived in Little Chute so their children could attend St. John Nepomucene School, then later Xavier High School in Appleton.
Seventeen years ago, the couple moved to Kaukauna and they joined St. Katharine Drexel Parish. Van Nuland found an opportunity to continue her life’s mission. “We had an annual parish picnic that had a rummage sale. We decided, ‘Why don’t we try to do this year round?’ We found a place, opened up Community Christian Resale Shop, and 17 years later (we’re still going),” she said.
The thrift shop is located at 111 2nd St. in Kaukauna. While it is a part-time job with no pay for Van Nuland, she has had a lot of help through the years. “My husband is a part of this. Without him, we couldn’t have this,” she said. “He keeps the windows clean, he sweeps the floor, he sees things that I don’t see because I’m seeing all the treasures and he’s seeing all the dirt.” Her friend, Cindy Pynenberg, comes in every Wednesday to decorate.
The store is open during the summers on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Donations are accepted during shop hours, but Van Nuland will pick up donations if people can’t drop off items during those times.
Van Nuland and her crew sort through donated items and put them on the floor to sell or package them up to share with other charities. The money they earn from sales is given to various nonprofit organizations.
“We give money to St. Katharine Drexel Parish, we do things for Men on a Mission, Oktoberfest at Holy Cross,” she said. Last year, the thrift store sponsored a Christmas meal at Round House Manor, an affordable housing community for seniors. “We made 45 bags of stuff for them. I took the grandkids to Walmart and we bought 45 bags of socks, 45 shampoos — those kids learned about sharing.”
Places like St. Paul’s Elder Services, a Catholic, Franciscan-sponsored community, and nursing homes can stop in and get items, such as BINGO prizes for free.
Every Wednesday, volunteers from Vine Christian Fellowship in Appleton pick up items at no charge for their Haiti mission. “They have three rummage sales there per year. At the last one, they made $12,000 in two days. They were ecstatic,” said Van Nuland. “They have a connection with a priest in Haiti and an orphanage.”
Van Nuland said the thrift store has been a gratifying endeavor for many reasons.
“So many people need money and someone’s got to help. When you give money to some of these places, it’s fun to see their faces,” she said. “Plus, it’s the people who come in — we’ve met so many nice people. People come in here now just to visit. They don’t want to shop, they just want to talk. You make so many new friends and even old friends in the parish who stop in.”
While she puts in a lot of hours running the thrift shop, Van Nuland said she is rewarded by meeting “so many nice people.” When their lease is up in 2020, she plans to try something else, perhaps volunteering at a place like St. Paul’s Elder Services.
“To be 20 years younger would be wonderful so I could do more,” said Van Nuland. “We’re working with the Holy Spirit — you see these people and they’re so grateful. You’re out of your comfort zone, you’d rather sit in front of the TV, but they just need you. This is payback for all of the blessings I’ve received. I’ve had a great life and if God comes tomorrow, he comes tomorrow.”