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Dozens waited patiently in line Saturday morning to be among the first to shop at the newly-renovated Lazarus House St. Frances St. Clare Thrift Store, designed not only to serve those in South Lawrence, but to make an investment in the community. 

“The goal is to serve the community better in the end,” said Lazarus House Executive Director Jeff Hassel. “It was a bit run down and we decided to put time, effort, and some money into it to make it more of a center for the community that they would like to come to.” 

After a month’s makeover, dozens of well-organized racks of clothing, gently-used toys, and even a visit from Santa greeted those crowding the store for last-minute holiday shopping. 

While the prices on the items may be nominal, Lazarus House believes it does not mean the shopping experience and environment should be different than that found at stores serving people of greater means. 

“The point is to give good care, a good welcome, and a shopping experience that is full of dignity to all of our guests,” said Hassel. 

That philosophy is at the core of the Lazarus House mission of treating those it serves with a dignity they may struggle to find elsewhere in their lives, and is now reflected in the right, updated surroundings at the South Union Street thrift store. 

“With a new fresh take on thrift store shopping, we hope to provide more opportunities for guests to get needed items at a low cost, attract more donations, and bring more business to the community,” said J.C. McGuire, coordinator of thrift stores for Lazarus House Ministries. 

Everything in the thrift store is donated by individuals, businesses, churches, synagogues, schools, civic groups and other generous groups. Items which meet a simple criteria: “Would I give this to my best friend?” are gratefully accepted. 

Since opening its doors as an emergency homeless shelter in 1983, Lazarus House has been breaking the cycle of poverty in the Merrimack Valley. The thrift store clothing programs assists families by stretching their dollars so they can afford rent, heat, and utilities. Lazarus House serves at least 25,000 households annually.