WEST MILTON — A tireless worker, Evelyn Alder, 82, of Tipp City, devotes numerous hours inside her beloved store, The Gleaning Place, a resale store with a mission to help others transform their house into a home.
The resale store is located in downtown West Milton and had a steady stream of visitors buying Christmas decorations to gently used sofas in early December.
“I love the people,” she said, as co-volunteers helped patrons purchase items and answer questions about the store’s stock.
A self-professed “hen on a hot rock,” Alder devotes countless hours as a volunteer at the resale store.
Alder shared how she grew up in a two-room shanty in remote eastern Tennessee. She shared how her family were “the poorest of the poor” not only in their community, but also living in the fourth poorest county in the nation.
Alder candidly shared how her childhood was filled with hardship, including having no running water or outhouse. She remembered times she and her siblings would go to bed hungry. An aunt would craft clothes out of cloth flour sacks, which she and her sister would trade because they only had one set of clothes each. As soon as she was able, Alder recalled working in the fields to pay for shoes and completing schoolwork by oil lamp — if oil for the lamp was available.
“I’m really proud I had to undergo those struggles. It made me a much better person,” she said.
Alder also recalled being mercilessly bullied by other students and a teacher who looked the other way.
By the light of that same oil lamp, around the age of 13, she vowed to work harder than her classmates and to live by the Golden Rule.
“One day, I was tired of crying. I studied by lamp and by that lamp, I decided, ‘Hey, I don’t care if they call me names — I’ll be somebody,’” she shared.
She studied and graduated at the top of her class . She then went on to earn her teaching degree at Lincoln Memorial College and later her master’s degree at Wright State University. She married her husband Paul in 1960 and moved to the area.
The retired high school biology and chemistry teacher taught at Northridge, Northmont and Tipp City schools where she retired as an administrator in 2003.
“I enjoyed every day as a teacher and administrator — I worked very hard at it,” she said. “I believe every child should have a chance to leave their mark on society.
She now devotes more than 50 hours serving those in need or who are looking for that special thrift store find.
Evelyn has been a volunteer with New Path Ministries since 2002 and has volunteered with The Gleaning Place since 2011.
She remembers how she and her sister were baptized at the age of 12 in an icy cold creek in the middle of February. The pair attended church every Sunday.
“I depended a lot on God,” she said. “Every day I feel closer to God.”
Evelyn shared a time she noticed a woman who seemed distraught inside the store. She shared how she hugged the woman and prayed with her.
“We are here to encourage people,” she said.
She’s also quick to dote on her fellow volunteers, including Carol Dunkel, who helped Alder start the store from a simple garage sale to the store front it is today.
Whether she’s greeting customers as they walk in the door, taking donations in the back, or arranging items on shelves, Alder said she has no plans of slowing down her service to the community.
“I love it here. It’s a good community,” she said. “If I can smile or acknowledge someone that may be overlooked and make them feel better, it’s an even better day.”
New Path Ministries Executive Director Bill Lutz said, “Evelyn does a great job of creating warm relationships with everyone who comes through the store. With Evelyn, you are family. I am glad she is part of our team.”
The Gleaning Place is located at 31 N. Miami St., in downtown West Milton. The resale store is open Wednesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you’d like to donate, call (937) 522-5477.
Reach Melanie Yingst at firstname.lastname@example.org
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