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Windfall conveys caring for neighborhood

Lena Lopez Schindler celebrates that social networks for The Windfall Thrift Store in the South Perry Neighborhood are close and personal.

Lena Lopez Schlinder

Lena Lopez Schindler at Windfall Thrift Store

“In our society, people are often unaware of who lives next door, but Spokane still remembers people being good neighbors and helping each other.  People of faith still care,” Lena affirmed.

Despite ups and downs over the years, The Windfall, like its name, “makes something sweet out of the things the wind blows our way,” she finds.

The word “windfall,” which means unexpected good fortune, originally described fruit that the wind knocked off a tree.  The bruised windfall fruit was given away or sold at a discount. Pennywise homemakers bought boxes of it to make jams and jellies. 

One employee and 20 volunteers run the store, which draws 15 to 20 people a day to shop for bargains.  Students, neighbors, immigrants, faithful customers who moved from the neighborhood and other thrift shops come.

The store took over the role of doing rummage sales, which for years were a way the Cathedral of St. John’s Service League raised funds for the cathedral, community and mission.

As president of the Service League this year, Lena, who has three part-time jobs, is responsible for administrative tasks and emergencies.  She uses her community connections to promote it. 

Like some of the volunteers, she helps a few hours one day a month.  Other volunteers give many hours each week to keep the store going. 

In the recent economic downturn, The Windfall has struggled with more demand for clothing just as people are unable to give as much in clothing donations.

The volunteer-employee ratio has waxed and waned over the years,” she said.  “A few years ago, we thought we might go out of business, but increasing volunteer time and weatherizing the building—including installing new double-paned windows at the front in October—has kept the store going.

“Volunteers offer their skills—as cashiers, sorting and preparing clothes in the back room, hanging them on racks or folding them on tables,” Lena said.  “Some do plumbing.  Others clean and dust.”

The volunteers are from the cathedral, St. Steven’s and St. David’s Episcopal in Spokane, and St. Mark’s Episcopal in Ritzville. 

The Windfall can always use more volunteers, including someone to handle EBay sales.

The store uses volunteer staff only from Tuesday to Thursday.  Volunteer and paid staff run it Friday and Saturday.  It is open from 1 to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, and 1 to 5 p.m., Saturday.

The Windfall continually needs gently used clothing, especially men’s clothing.  Sometimes there is plenty of children’s clothing, and sometimes they need more. 

We had nine bags last month, but now the glut of children’s clothing is gone,” she said.

The Windfall also accepts donations of kitchenware, household items, bedding, used books, furniture, knick knacks, DVDs and more.  Some donations are items left after yard and estate sales.  Donations come from the neighborhood and around the diocese.

Volunteers sort donations, clean them and set them out to sell, organizing clothing by sizes and hanging them on racks.  Prices are on the racks.

The Windfall draws people by its low prices: $1 for children’s clothing, $2.50 for women’s blouses—in contrast to $4 or $6 at other thrift stores. 

The average net profit after expenses each month is $1,200.  Of that, 10 percent is tithed to the cathedral and the rest goes to neighborhood charities.

Items that do not sell are given to other charities, such as Our Sisters Closet, the Community Warehouse, Union Gospel Mission, Our Place and Christ Kitchen.

Because the cathedral is the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane with 42 congregations in Eastern Washington and North Idaho, it is concerned about problems of the region, Lena said. 

The Service League, which has representatives from six guilds, also organizes an annual bazaar, coffee hours, funeral receptions and kitchen activities.

Lena told The Windfall’s story.  After more than 40 years of doing rummage sales to raise funds, Mrs. Richard Coombs, then wife of the dean of the cathedral, and Mrs. Finch Parsons, wife of a deacon, had the idea of a thrift store. Originally, it began to provide low-cost clothing, shoes, household items, books and other items to people in the South Perry and Grant neighborhood. 

In April 1961, they opened the “Windmill” in the windmill store at 11th and South Perry.  By 1966, they needed more space, and secured their location at 1024 S. Perry, renaming the store, The Windfall.  By 1967, the Service League decided to stop doing rummage sales and put all their effort into The Windfall as its primary income source.

Lena said Bishop Edward Cross, who came in 1924, and his wife, Angela, started the Service League at All Saints Church at First and Jefferson.  In 1925, he envisioned building a gothic cathedral overlooking Spokane.

The Service League was to raise money for the building and its appointments—furniture, pews, stained glass and vestments.

In 1931, the league and its 16 guilds raised $14,300 despite the Depression—$195,582 in today’s dollars—in addition to funds it gave for food, clothing and relief.

It continued to raise funds for the cathedral, which many groups use as a community center.

In 2011, the guilds and Service League raised $20,000, most of which went to local outreach. 

Lena started to attend the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John before she went to college at the University of Puget Sound.  She earned a bachelor’s degree in art and art history in 1990.  She earned a master’s in fine arts in sculpture at the University of Montana in Missoula in 1995.

Being spiritual and inquisitive, she had a love-hate relationship with Christianity, investigating Buddhism and women’s spirituality in the 1990s.  Teaching art 12 years at Spokane Falls Community College, Whitworth University, Eastern Washington University and Fairchild Air Force Base, Lena re-entered the church. 

As she read about Byzantine and Renaissance art to prepare for classes and as she took students to see art and architecture at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Temple Beth Shalom, the Cathedral of St. John and St. Marks Lutheran Church, she gained understanding of Christian faith.

After her mother died in 2003, Lena became more involved in the cathedral and active in a guild.

Anticipating funding cuts in higher education, she began looking for other employment opportunities. 

She now works in estate and asset planning, and owns the Hungry Robin Garden, which sells heirloom fruits and vegetables and fine crafts at the South Perry and Spokane Farmers’ Markets.

For information, call 534-3888 or email

Copyright © December 2012 - The Fig Tree,