Give and take: New Ames thrift store donates profits to support ministries, local missions

Cathy Twito, Tami Hicks and Mike Sulc, all active in their local religious communities, are the co-owners and founders of Overflow, and hope to donate at least 50 percent of their revenue each month to three separate ministries.

Patrick Budding

Overflow Thrift Store seems like any other consignment shop.

There are racks and aisles of gently used clothing at low prices. Some pieces of furniture are price-marked against the wall. There’s a used book room off to one side.

Unlike the other other consignment shops, Overflow, located at 202 Duff Ave., donates part of its proceeds to ministries. 

A large cork board on the wall in the middle of the store has the logos of global ministries and pictures of children, villages and tents in developing nations.

Tami Hicks pointed to two headshots of children smiling at the camera.

“These are just two of the orphans that we sponsor here,” Hicks said.

Hicks, Cathy Twito and Mike Sulc are all active in their local religious communities and are the co-owners and founders of Overflow. They hope to donate at least 50 percent of each month’s revenue to three separate ministries, but Twito said “after expenses are met, it will all go.”

One of the three ministries that will receive donations is Children’s Hope Chest, a ministry active in many countries, where donations will be focused on aiding an orphanage in Uganda. Another ministry, Life to Life Africa, provides education, food and clothing for Ugandan people. Overflow will also support United Christian International, which will be aiding a community in Haiti.

Twito said that the three “were walking in step and met,” brought together by “divine intervention.”

Twito, whose husband is the pastor at Ascension Lutheran Church in Ames, was introduced to Sulc and Hicks after traveling to Haiti with her youngest daughter and returning with a vision of giving back to the world.

Hicks had operated a store located in Nevada, Iowa, that sold unwanted items left behind when tenants moved out of houses or apartments. She was connected with Sulc and Twito by mutual friends and found that they had similar philanthropic ambitions.

“After having been overseas, after seeing the lack of stuff, and the simplicity of their lifestyles, it’s just heartbreaking to see that we have so much stuff that we can’t even take it all with us,” Twito said. “We can’t even manage it.” 

Sulc, who works full-time for Life to Life Africa, which supports villages in Africa through clothing and food supplies, was searching for a way to give support to struggling people without the hassle of physically shipping donated clothing. The store front provides a means to give financial assistance directly to villages in need.

Twito predicted that it would take six months to a year to be profitable enough to manage some of Overflow’s goals, which include a tuition scholarship for a student at a university in Haiti for about $1,200. However, after the first month of business, Overflow has surpassed breaking even.

The three owners were happy to be able to start off by giving a presence in their three ministries. Twito said, “the keys to our success is going to be the volunteer situation.”

Overflow has one full-time employee and one part time employee but is mainly maintained and run by volunteers.

Allee Wengert is a recent graduate of Iowa State who is seeking her master’s degree. She plans on volunteering 10 to 20 hours per week at the store.

“The cause really is just so great,” Wengert said, “This kind of mission makes working here bigger than basic volunteer work,” Wengert said. 

Overflow can be contacted to schedule volunteering on its website or through its Facebook page. One can also fill out a volunteer interest form in the store.

Aside from the global ministries, the owners of Overflow also plan to support local missions, including a halfway house for women leaving prison, a safe house for women leaving the sex trafficking industry in Iowa, and supporting Iowans who plan to adopt or foster orphans from the state or around the world.

Twito had tears in her eyes as she explained her passion for Overflow’s mission.

“We have so much here. And yet for them, their lives aren’t centered around stuff, so there is a wealth that they have that I want to learn from too,” Twito said about those who benefit from the ministries.