In the early 1990’s, a caring, humble woman from the North Hills section of Abington Township was working with the deacons at her church, New Life in Glenside. That woman, Jennifer Nicholaides, had a heart for the biblical widows and orphans, meaning the needy and underserved in our society. She determined that there was a great need to start a mission to single moms and children to provide them with desperately needed clothing, so she created an exchange. She asked members of her congregation to donate their good, used clothing and let area women sort through and take what they needed. So much clothing and accessories began to pour in that soon there was more than could be used in a quick turn-around time. As a result, the concept was expanded and led to the beginning of a thrift store. New Life Thrift Store was officially launched in 1994 and moved to its present location in 2003.
From its inception, Jennifer gave her heart and soul to this effort in so many ways and served as the Executive Director from 2003-2009. She used the store to create jobs, often giving people a much-needed second chance. She gave away merchandise to those who were victims of emergencies such as house fires or who simply did not have enough money to buy thrift clothes for themselves and their families. She made sure that store proceeds not only went toward helping those in need locally, but also were spread among community organizations that were also working to serve people in various ways.
Over the years, the Abington School District, Abington Police, and Abington Hospital as well as local social service organizations and houses of worship have come to New Life Thrift when there are specific, immediate needs to be met. Some of those situations can include children without winter coats, a family in need of beds, and women who are fleeing domestic violence and require some basic furniture to set up an apartment.
Prior to organizing a clothing cupboard that would become New Life Thrift, Jennifer was also responsible for opening a food pantry at New Life Church. Jennifer earned her B.S. in nutrition from Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington. One of her earliest positions was as a Nursing Assistant with the Visiting Nurse Association of Montgomery County, where she assisted senior citizens and young adults with feeding, personal hygiene, and obtaining social services. She next volunteered for a community food coop where she progressed to its manager by the end of the 1980s.
During the 1980s and into the 2000s, Jennifer and her husband, Stasie, raised their daughter Kindra and three sons, Michael, Jason, and Leam, all graduates of Abington High School. After leaving New Life Thrift, Jennifer spent a number of years caring for her mother-in-law as well as a grandson before returning to the thrift business. In 2015. Jennifer had an opportunity to launch Throw Back Thrift, located on Easton Road in the heart of Roslyn. Jennifer’s store supports community outreach and animal rescue.
Over the past 37 years, Jennifer and her family have extended hospitality to 45 men, women, and children from around the world as well as foreign exchange students from Ecuador and Germany. In 2007, Jennifer was part of a three-week mission trip to Uganda to provide training skills and help establish microbusinesses for women.
Jennifer believes that a key ingredient of making Abington/Rockledge a strong community is our becoming more multicultural and ensuring that we include and attend to those with physical and/or emotional needs. She believes that our community offers many opportunities to serve people. Her vision is to see more small businesses and nonprofits flourishing here. She encourages holistic outreach to the most vulnerable community members as well as refugees who come to our area.
Jennifer has been recognized numerous times over the years for her efforts on behalf of others:
- Glenside Inter-Service Club – Distinguished Community Service Award
• Greater Glenside Chamber of Commerce – Nonprofit Business Award for New Life Thrift
• Glenside Rotary Club – Community Service Award and Paul Harris Fellow Award
• Eastern Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce – Leadership Montgomery County – Alumni Award • Montgomery County Commission on Women and Families – Unsung Heroine Award for A Contemporary Woman.
In her “spare” time, Jennifer enjoys gardening, cooking, swimming, creating recycled glass-on-glass designs, and, yes, thrift shopping! ACT is pleased to recognize such a generous citizen servant.