When Vasilisa Costin and her family immigrated to the United States from Moldova eight years ago, they felt like they had won the lottery. “We applied for a green card and won,” Costin says. “I was so excited to come to America. We wanted to see something new.”
However, reality quickly set in for Costin upon realizing the cost of living and health care. She also spoke no English. “When you come here, you think, tomorrow will bring a job or some money, but it doesn’t come,” says Costin, who lived in Eden Prairie for several years and now lives in Richfield. “Then people who knew me [introduced me to] PROP Shop.”
The PROP Shop is a resale store and nonprofit organization that caters to low-income families in Eden Prairie and Chanhassen. The shop currently has more than 700 active client families and has served more than 2,000 families since opening its doors in 2007. It is a spin-off of People Reaching Out to People (PROP), a food shelf located just down the street. Though they share a name, the organizations are run and are funded separately.
At the front of the PROP Shop is the resale store. Open to the general public, the store sells everything from clothing to books, jewelry, furniture and home decor. The back of the shop houses the Family Services Area. Set up like a store, families in need can visit Family Services to browse for clothing, housewares, furniture and basic personal care items. “This program helps people,” Cindy Eddy, the PROP Shop’s volunteer executive director, says. “You know, buying a snowsuit or boots is huge when you’re paycheck to paycheck. This helps people get further along.”
People in need, referred to as clients, are invited to visit Family Services once a month. Clients and their families spend 20 minutes shopping as indicated by a timer. If clients have specific needs, they can notify PROP Shop volunteers and have items added to a list. If and when these items arrive via donation, clients are notified.
In 2014, the shop opened a 5,000-square foot furniture “showroom” where families who are working with Family Services can shop for pieces in a staged space. There is a backlog of families waiting for things such as couches, tables and especially beds, which are always in demand.
Lauren Coverdale, a resident of Eden Prairie and frequent visitor to the PROP Shop’s Family Services area, says one of the greatest things the shop gave her was a proper bed. “I was sleeping in a twin bed that was too short for my body,” she says. “They gave my mom and me mattresses, bed frames and sheets. It was amazing.”
Coverdale helps support her mother, who is disabled and unable to work. She says her mom has visited the PROP food shelf “pretty much since I was born,” which led to a referral to the PROP Shop. They were looking for basic necessities, such as silverware and dishes, as well as fun items like books to read. “My mom says these items make her feel more human,” Coverdale says. “Things are a lot better now, but if we do need something, PROP is there for us. It’s peace of mind.”
The PROP Shop operates with the help of 75-100 volunteers per week. Volunteers do a little of everything including accepting, sorting and pricing donations.
When families need specific items that are not frequently donated, Secret Shopper volunteers pool their resources and donate new or gently-used items to fill these needs. “I needed black shoes for my job, and I got them brand new through the Secret Shoppers program,” Coverdale says.
Nearly 94 percent of the PROP Shop’s revenue goes back to programs like Family Services. Eddy says their mantra is “any penny we can save, we save.”
The PROP Shop is constantly in need of donations. The most urgently needed items are blankets, bedding, towels, fans, socks, underwear and bras. Furniture and small appliances are also in high demand. Visit their website here for a complete list of items.