This is a feature story I wrote for my News Writing, Reporting and Editing class about Ruth’s Room, a great non-profit thrift store located in Denton, Texas.
Habitat for Humanity’s local nonprofit support
After years of volunteering for the Denton Chapter of Habitat for Humanity and serving on its fundraising committee, Bunny Hodges saw a void in a way to support the not-for-profit community outreach organization, one which she could fill in the form of a thrift store.
Recruiting two of her fellow fundraising committee members, Nelia Thorp and Alex Lieban, the trio’s collaboration led to the creation of Ruth’s Room in 1994.
Named after Hodge’s mother, Ruth’s Room operated under Habitat for Humanity until 2000 when Hodges decided to underwrite the corporation. Turning the store into a legal entity and assuming liability for it, Ruth’s Room became an incorporated company and operates independently.
Approaching its 11th anniversary this December 16th, the independently-owned, non-profit thrift store’s mission remains the same as it was then: “To help fund and benefit the loving work Habitat for Humanity of Denton County,” Hodges said.
Being a nonprofit corporation, Ruth’s Room does not distribute its profits among employees. Any surplus revenue that the thrift store generates after operating costs is divided three ways:
85 percent is donated monthly to the Denton County Habitat for Humanity, 10 percent goes into a contingency fund in case of any emergencies, 5 percent is donated to a worthy local outreach nonprofit for disadvantaged people that Ruth Room volunteers nominate and elect through a vote.
As of this past June, Ruth’s Room can proudly boast that its total donations to Habitat have surpassed the $1 million milestone.
Employing only three employees, Ruth’s Room relies on volunteered time and service. While manpower is a problem for some non-profits, Ruth’s Room has a regular staff of about 30 dedicated volunteers, countless scholastic and court-ordered volunteers, adding up to more than 800 donated hours each month.
“Some of these people are people who volunteer week in, week out, year in, year out,” Hodges said. “It’s astronomical the amount of help we get.”
Aside from its regular staff, all Denton residents, many of Ruth’s Room volunteers are UNT, TWU or NCTC students.
Jill Christy, a sophomore studying business management at NCTC, volunteers about three times a week at the Christmas Store, an extension of Ruth’s Room that Christmas-related items donated to the nonprofit.
Christy had been a loyal customer of Ruth’s Room for years, so when she felt the charitable urge to assist her community, working with this particular nonprofit was an easy choice.
“Not only is [Ruth’s Room] close to home, but I like the cause and the people here,” Christy said.
Christy also particularly likes the Christmas Store because of the unique and sometimes antique items that are donated. Aside from the great prices and knowing that her money goes towards a good cause, Christy said. The Christmas Store receives new donations every day and most of those items cannot be found in franchises and department stores.
“My favorite item that I’ve found so far is an Indian nativity scene,” Christy said. “It was really pretty and so unique that I bought it for my mother-in-law.”
Neethu Joseph, a TWU freshman studying biology, also enjoys the unique items that the Christmas Store sells. She had never heard of Ruth’s Room or the Christmas Store before she began volunteering with the nonprofit to fulfill the philanthropy requirement for her honors program.
Having volunteered with various projects since she was in high school, Joseph finds the people at the Christmas Store to be the most enjoyable part working of volunteering.
“The people are all really sweet, cheerful and willing to help,” Joseph said. “You also meet so many different and interesting people.”
The Christmas Store, which is in its second season, is located at just behind Ruth’s Room at 615 Sunset Drive and operates from the beginning of October through Christmas.
Aside from a building’s worth of Christmas ornaments and supplies, Ruth’s Room also receives many other types of donations. Clothes are the most donated items.
Upon entering, racks upon metal racks of clothing expand out from the right side of the store, and an entire second room filled with more clothing can be spotted at the back of the store.
Typical thrift stores shelving and display cases are laid out throughout the store to guide shoppers among the masses of kitchenware, boxes containing old records, cassette tapes and VHS tapes, and bookcases filled with an eclectic assortment of books and magazines.
Joe Farmer, one of Ruth’s Room’s three employees, chuckles warmly as he explains the store’s typical process to sorting through the mountains of donated items.
“Basically I try to throw everything away, and Bunny hops into the dumpster and pulls it out and puts a price tag on it,” Farmer said, laughing.
“It’s a real balance,” Hodges chimes in.
Farmer also handles most of the pick-ups and deliveries because Ruth’s Room accepts all types of donations, including furniture.
According to Hodges, the store makes the most profit off of its furniture sales, but most furniture donations are sent to Bart’s Barn, the brother store that is operated by Habitat for Humanity.
“Bart’s Barn is actually named after my father,” Hodges revealed.
But because Bart’s Barn is operated by Habitat, the store’s name was changed to the ReStore since Habitat wanted a uniform name and logo for all Habitat operated stores, Hodges said.
Looking forward to the next five to 10 years, Hodges plans to continue running as she has for the last 11 years: accepting any donations and operating with the sole purpose of benefitting Habitat for Humanity of Denton County.
Ruth’s Room is located at 1721 N. Carroll Blvd. in Denton.
Both Ruth’s Room and the Christmas Store are open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.