A waste not, want not mindset fueled the founding — and success — of Hillsboro Et Cetera Shop.
Kaethe Warkentin grew up with famine and political unrest in present-day Ukraine. In 1943, she fled her homeland for Paraguay, where she met her husband, John, in a Mennonite colony. He was from Hillsboro. They moved here in 1949.
Mennonite Central Committee had helped her family in her homeland. Warkentin set out to repay that kindness and provide a reduce, reuse, and recycle source long before those words were commonplace.
In 1977, with clothes donated by Mennonite friends and families, she started what became the popular Main Street shop. It made only 26 cents its first day — change she kept in a muffin tin. Since 1977, the shop has raised $1.4 million for Mennonite Central Committee.
In the 1920s, MCC had given her family soup and bread — considerably more sustenance than the mixture of bark, thistles, rye, and wheat her grandfather would prepare.
Warkentin earned three master’s degrees and taught German, Russian, and Spanish at Tabor College. She started the thrift store after she retired from Tabor.
The store opened in the front room of a bowling alley but moved to a larger building under her leadership. Et Cetera — a favorite stop for thrift store devotees — moved to its current building in 1997.
Warkentin died in 2007 at age 91. A granddaughter, Abigail Welborn, was inspired to give to MCC during the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015 because of her grandmother.
She researched MCC’s work with refugees from Syria and Iraq.
“I think we often feel a kinship to organizations we have a personal connection with,” Welborn wrote in a news release about the store. “That’s part of how God uses our stories to motivate what we do.”
Warkentin modeled living in a frugal way, including using soup-can labels for paper, Welborn wrote.
“She was thrifty,” she wrote. “She’d use the back of everything. She was just appalled by the waste in America. She never wasted anything.”