Pass It On Thrift Store in Crestwood benefits Christian education serving the Palos-Orland area.
By Jamie Hiskes, Student Correspondent
As a Palos area resident, you may have driven by Pass It On Thrift Center at Route 83 and 127th Street, Crestwood.
What you may not know is that the store established over 10 years ago is a not-for-profit to benefit Christian education at Chicago Christian High School (CCHS) in Palos Heights and its two feeder schools in Oak Lawn and Tinley Park. Additionally, the entire store is run by volunteers.
Out of all these wonderful people who come and sacrifice their time for others every week, though, there are three particularly special ones.
Don Holwerda, Harry Beezehold, and John Langland are 91, 93, and 90 years old, respectively. They are the only volunteers at Pass It On in that age bracket, and it hardly hinders them at all. Whenever they get the chance, they come in and work diligently to maintain the building and the items for sale within it, and they contribute in a large way to the overall feeling of warmth and joy that patrons experience when they walk through the front doors.
Don arrives at the thrift store early every Monday, when he is the M.O.D. (Manager of the Day), and shares a “Monday Hug” with his colleague, Palos Heights resident Jan DeVries. He is one of the few volunteers that have been at the store from the very beginning, and to this day he splits his time between Bible for Missions — the original business — and Pass It On. He loves to chat and always has a big smile on his face, and his jokes could leave the most stoic of people in stitches. Even though he has a pretty heavy job — as the M.O.D., he basically oversees the entire store and deals with any and all problems that arise — he likes to keep it fun, and he enjoys himself immensely.
“You lose friends all the time when you get to be this age,” Don says matter-of-factly during our interview. “Many of mine have, well, gone to live upstairs. But you make new friends every day working here.” He recounts the time when a bunch of women suddenly started singing the hymn “Marching to Zion” in the middle of his shift, and he joined in. By the time they were finished, everyone was friends with everyone else.
One of the friends he’s made over the years is Harry Beezehold, the oldest volunteer currently working at Pass It On. After he retired from the label printing business, he found he wanted some way to pass the time. When he heard about the thrift store opening just ten minutes away from his home, he decided that that might be something worthwhile to do. He worked mostly at the receiving doors in the back, where the store brings in its donations, and now he does some toy repairs.
“Mother Nature was telling me to slow down,” he says, “and I listened. Now if I can get in a few hours here, I’m happy. It’s a beautiful place to work."
When John Langland walks up to the table where Harry and I are talking, Harry turns to him and smiles. “Well, if it isn’t Mr. Fix-It!” he exclaims jubilantly, patting John on the arm. He turns back to me. “I don’t care what anybody says; this guy is the man!"
John just smiles softly and takes his seat at the other end of the table. “Oh, enough of that,” he says, humble as always.
But Harry is right. When regular patrons of Pass It On think about the store, their thoughts usually return to one man: John Langland. The 90-year-old insists that his work — recycling unneeded materials, restoring almost every piece of furniture to come through the store’s receiving doors, and “taking out the trash” — isn’t important, but if you ask anyone else they will disagree entirely. John has restored and re-upholstered an average of fifty chairs a year with his own two hands and the vast array of tools that he has at his “work station” by the back doors. He says he tries to fix everything he can, “no matter how long it takes,” because he knows he’s one of the only people who will actually do it.
Even before the thrift store opened, John was helping out in a huge way. The glass storefront used to be covered in paint from different ads and displays, and because there were no chemicals they could use to strip it safely, John had to scrape it off single-handedly with razor blades. He ended up using 125. Now he works at the thrift store six days a week, as he has been since it opened its doors. He is, according to several people, “the heart of Pass It On.”
When asked if they would recommend Chicago Christian High School teens to volunteer at the thrift store, they answer with a unanimous “Yes.” And when I ask them how long they intend to remain working there, Don replies seriously, “As long as the Good Lord gives me health to do it.” The other two men nod in agreement.
In many ways, these three men embody what volunteering really means: Working hard not for your own benefit, but for the benefit of everyone else around you. They have become best friends while working together over the years, and are immensely thankful for the opportunity to work at such a wonderful place as Pass It On.
If you ever stop by the thrift store, look for a tall man with a broad smile on his face, a shorter mustached man wearing a plaid shirt, and a friendly-looking guy in a black parka vest and a ball cap. Say hi to them. Shake their hands. Thank them for everything they do.
Jamie Hiskes is a junior at Chicago Christian High School in Palos Heights.