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Brijit Arntzen (left) and Caitlyn Swanson, both 10, browse the racks at Stone Soup Thrift Shop in St. Paul Park. The two friends will be modeling clothes at a dinner and fashion show benefit on Jan. 26. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler)

Worn again: Fashion show to raise money for Stone Soup Thrift Shop

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Stone Soup Thrift Shop is betting on proceeds from a fashion and variety show to help shore up its flagging finances.

The Jan. 26 event will also include a spaghetti dinner, cash bar, martial arts demonstration and silent auction.

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The fashion show will feature south Washington County adults and students modeling clothes from the racks at Stone Soup in St. Paul Park.

“The idea of having this fashion show came from the misconception that you can’t find nice things at Stone Soup Thrift Shop,” said Jen Petersen, a board member of Basic Needs Inc. of South Washington County, which operates Stone Soup. “It’s a cool place to go shopping.”

Stone Soup has struggled financially. They give away nearly half of their inventory of gently used clothing, electronics, furniture and household items to struggling individuals and families. They even set aside new and gently-used wigs for female cancer patients who have suffered hair loss from chemotherapy.

Board president Majel Carroll said that they received an “end of year” $15,000 donation from Northern Tier Energy, who operates a refinery in St. Paul Park.

But if that sounds like a lot of money, consider that Stone Soup’s expenses are $20,000 per month, according to Carroll.

“We finished 2013 in the black and have good start into January of 2014,” she said.

But it’s February, March and April that could be a problem.

“We’ve never had enough money in the bank to go beyond three months,” Carroll said.” It’s been a pedal-as-fast-you-can kind of thing.”

To pay rent, utilities and payroll, Stone Soup depends on money from grants, cash donations and proceeds from their retail store. But their annual fundraiser “Stone Soup-er-Bowl,” which was held last spring, brought in $5,000 less than they had hoped. Their furnace malfunctioned last month.

“We’re often in this predicament, it seems,” said Peterson, a Cottage Grove City Council member. “Expenses go up, certain things need to be repaired. We’ve had to hire more staff so payroll has gone up. It’s just difficult.”

She said they hope to make the fashion and variety show an annual event, to be held sometime in the fall.

The fashion show portion of the evening is being organized by Stone Stoup board member Jennifer Cheesman. She’s invited folks who have agreed to participate in the fashion show to visit Stone Soup and put together their look. Models get to keep the clothes.

“We want to be able to represent the type of merchandise we sell in the store,” said Cheesman, who also is a St. Paul Park City Council member. “We’re doing all ages and genders, boys and girls, teenagers, adult men and women. It’s really just your average person, the type of people who live, work and go to school in the area.”

That includes Cottage Grove residents Caitlyn Swanson and Brijit Arntzen, both 10. The two friends recently visited Stone Soup to choose their outfit for the big night.

“I want to do it because it sounded like fun,” Caitlyn says. “I’ve always wanted to try modeling.”

A shiny red gown with spaghetti straps was one of the pieces considered by Hailey Carlson, 13, of Cottage Grove as she browsed the racks with grandmother Sue Wagner.

“I either want to be a doctor or work in fashion,” said Carlson, who attends Park High School.

The theme of the fashion show is Earth Wind & Fire. The “earth” segment will feature models wearing earthtones such as brown, gray and black. That will be followed models in blue, white and silver clothing, representing wind. The “fire” portion will blaze forth with oranges, yellows and reds.

Local businesses are donating their time and services. DJ Ruben Gomez Jr. will provide the music and Mary Kay Cosmetics representative Sheila Nikl will do make up. Carbone’s Pizzeria of Cottage Grove is donating the food for the dinner. The martial arts demonstration will be provided by the National Karate Academy of Martial Arts.

Shawn Foster-Huot, who teaches guitar at A-Sharp Music Studios in Cottage Grove,  is coordinating the live entertainment. He’ll perform with his group The Last to Know.

“We’re kind of an acoustic soul outfit,” he said.

A-Sharp guitar teacher Mike Graebner will play a solo jazz set and piano teacher Mitch Grussing will play classical selections. Students who are studying voice, piano and guitar will have their own slot on Sunday’s bill.

“It’s going well,” Foster said. “I think everybody’s ready to go. I’ve got a couple of vocal students that I will be performing guitar with. We’ll be ready but we’re not quite ready yet. The holidays really slowed everything down.”

Cheesman said they still need some risers to use as a runway, as well as some drapes that can be hung to curtain off a private staging area for the models. She said she hopes a local business can provide them.

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William Loeffler
William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 
(651) 459-3435
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