By LOIS KINDLE
Hidden behind the Sun City Center Plaza is a bargain hunter’s dream called Nearly New. It’s a place where folks can find everything from gently used clothing, jewelry and accessories to linens, housewares, books — even furniture. Everything is priced to move, and it’s all for charity.
“I come here once a month or so for dresses and other clothes,” said Isis Lewis, 16, a junior at East Bay High School. “Everything’s so inexpensive. I don’t even know how to shop at the mall anymore.”
The thrift store’s operations are overseen by the Interfaith Social Action Council of Sun City Center, a nonprofit group of nine community houses of worship. Proceeds from all sales of donated items at Nearly New are used by the council to fulfill its mission of benefiting “the lives of the individuals and organizations” within South Shore by giving back to the community through scholarships and grants.
“During our 2017-2018 season (which ends in April), we awarded $160,000 in scholarships and $167,000 in grants,” said John Granata, Interfaith Council treasurer.
“The scholarships go to graduating seniors at East Bay and Lennard high schools,” added Jane Trefren, president of the board. “Applications for those scholarships go through school counselors and are awarded to students for any accredited college, university or trade school.”
Each $2,000 scholarship is renewable if the student is full time and maintains a GPA of 2.5 or higher.
For the first time, two scholarships were also funded by the council and awarded through the Hillsborough Community College Foundation to mature students from the South Shore area wanting to finish a degree or upgrade a certification.
Interfaith Social Action Council grants go to 501(c)3 organizations needing funds to accomplish specific goals. Online requests are accepted in September and January. The council’s grants committee reviews all submissions and makes recommendations to an executive board comprised of one member per house of worship. The requests this board accepts are then voted on by the entire Interfaith Social Action Council to determine award recipients.
An organization can receive only one award per year, and the amounts of the grants vary.
“We give what we think should be funded,” Trefren said.
Grant recipients are required to submit a final report letter, and document what they did with the funds and the results, she said.
Grants awarded during the 2017-2018 season went to a diverse array of nonprofit organizations, including the Kiwanis Club of SouthShore, Disabled American Veterans, South Shore Symphony Orchestra, Mission Smiles, St. Vincent de Paul Society, Southeastern Guide Dogs, Good Samaritan Mission, Military Order of the World Wars, American Legion, several local elementary schools and more.
Nearly New has only one paid employee and is otherwise staffed by around 70 volunteers. The shop is open for sales from 8 a.m. to noon Wednesdays and Saturdays, September through May and Saturdays only during June, July and August.
Donations are accepted from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on non-sale days — Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. They can include anything from shoelaces to laptop computers, but old televisions, printers, large appliances, fixtures like toilets, screen doors and sinks, mirrors and junk furniture are not allowed.
Free pick up of furniture in good condition is offered anywhere in Sun City Center and Kings Point. There’s a modest fee charged for furniture delivery provided by a licensed and insured mover.
The Nearly New Shop is at 1515 Sun City Center Plaza. For more information or to volunteer, visit www.interfaithcouncilofsuncitycenter.com or call 813-642-9099.
Interfaith Social Action Council members (all located in Sun City Center)
Beth Israel Jewish Congregation
Prince of Peace Catholic Church
Redeemer Lutheran Church
South Shore United Church of Christ
St. Andrew Presbyterian Church
St. John the Divine Episcopal Church
Trinity Baptist Church
Unitarian Universalist Church
United Methodist Church of Sun City Center