In December, Pass it Along owner and operator Kirsten Johnson announced she was closing the doors to Walnut’s downtown resale shop.
The news was met with disappointment in the Bureau County village of 1,500 where Pass it Along was more than just a resale store – it was a source of support for local organizations that had given more than $150,000 to local organizations over the years.
When Lori Zeman of Walnut heard the news, she knew she couldn't just let Johnson’s plans come to pass. Her daughter, Grace, volunteered at the store and Zeman couldn’t fathom the thought of seeing the community lose one of its most essential businesses.
So she took matters into her own hands. She decided to sit down with Johnson to see what it would take to keep the shop going.
“Even though I’d never run a business per se, I felt I had the makings of what was needed,” said Zeman, who has a background in marketing/advertising, management and customer service.
Before she knew it, she was applying for her own 501(c)(3) status and planning to reopen the store at the beginning of February with a new board of directors and a new name, Pass the Love.
“It’s been such a neat experience. … It’s crazy how it just clicked,” she said. “You can’t possibly get bored here. There’s something always to be done. I know what this place has done for the town. … It’s really neat. I look forward to what we can give back.”
Since the store reopened, the business has remained the same for the most part, but with expanded hours. It is now open on Thursdays.
The thrift store sells donated goods – clothing, jewelry, books, DVDs and CDs, furniture household goods, and more –and donates the profits back to the community. Zeman plans to focus on giving back to the youth groups throughout the Bureau Valley School District.
“The youth is how we’re going to stay vital. … Funding these programs will not only enrich their lives but hopefully encourage them to take responsibility and pride in their community,” she said.
Zeman also plans to give four $1,500 scholarships to Bureau Valley High School students this year.
One thing that impressed Zeman the most was the volunteers’ willingness to stay on the schedule under her direction. The resale shop has anywhere from 15 to 20 volunteers who pick up shifts to help keep the store running.
“The volunteers all bring something unique to the table, and I couldn’t do it without them. We welcome anybody else. Whether it’s a couple hours or whatever, there’s always a variety of jobs to do around the store,” she said.
Students looking for community service hours can sign up to do them at Pass the Love.
Kayleigh Kaiser, Pass the Love board treasurer, commended Zeman on her willingness to take ownership of the store that’s impacted so many in the Walnut community and surrounding area.
“She took the plunge, gave up her secure job and went feet first into the unknown. This just goes to speak to her character and how much she wants to help others,” Kaiser said.
Pass the Love, 120 S. Main St.
Store and donation hours
Wednesday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Thursday and Friday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Sunday to Tuesday: Closed
What can you donate? And where?
Gently used clothing, decor, small kitchen appliances, tools, furniture, toys, and other items are accepted. Donations can be dropped off in the shed behind the store, located at 118 S. Main St., Walnut. Message the Pass the Love Facebook page or email Lori Zeman at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.