Recent weeks were very busy ones for the volunteers at St. Martin's Thrift Store in Millinocket as they played host to many unusual visitors.
In addition Sen. Susan M. Collins' Feb. 24 visit to and tour of the 112 Maine Ave. thrift store two other groups toured the store separately at different times and sat down with volunteers to listen to pointers on how to run a successful non-profit store.
Brenda Thornton, accompanied by three other women from Old Town, all involved with running an Old Town thrift store, the Holy Family Thrift Store, spent nearly three hours touring and talking when they visited MIllinocket. That the thrift store neither smelled like or looked like the traditional thrift store surprised the women, according to Business Manager Jayne Jones.
The second group of visitors, Elaine Lloyd, Fran Saultes and Elizabeth Crowley of St. Sebastian Church in Madison, are thinking about starting a thrift store in a vacant school building in that area. The group is receiving encouragement from Fr. John Mazzei, pastor of Christ The KIng Parish, which includes Notre Dame de Lourdes, Skowhegan, St. Peter's, Bingham, and the Madison church.
The Madison women, who took lots of notes during their lengthy visit to St. Martin's Thrift Store, anticipate getting their venture underway within two months, although on a much smaller scale than St. Martin's.
One of the Madison trio was overheard saying, the Millinocket store "..didn't look like or smell like a thrift store. The volunteers on hand that day considered that remark one of the highest compliments the store could be paid.
The visitors from Old Town and Madison first learned about the Millinocket thrift store from a two-page, feature article which appeared in the November/December issue of Harvest Magazine, the official publication of the Diocese of Portland. That article prompted them to contact St. Martin's Thrift Store.
That feature story also drew attention to St. Martin's Thrift Store in other ways. At least three separate southern Maine readers of that publication were impressed by the work the store does and how volunteers have made it a success. They were so impressed each donated and shipped large boxes of clothing - some of it brand new - to the thrift store for its use.
However, the backbone of donations that help make St. Martin's Thrift Store successful, still continue to come from residents of the Katahdin area, as well as residents of such distant locations, such as Mattawamkeag, Bangor, Lincoln, Island Falls and Brewer.
St. Martin's Thrift Store 112 Maine Ave., Millinocket.