SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — The Union Gospel Mission in Sioux Falls officially opened the doors to its thrift store Monday after hosting a soft-launch last week. The store had been closed for nearly two months after getting flooded by a burst pipe the day after Christmas. It was quickly repaired and the shelves re-stocked, but it couldn’t reopen until they could hire enough workers. Yet the business expects to thrive in spite of a staffing shortage.

Maddie Schei’s tenure as a thrift store employee lasted just one shift in December.

“I have one day here and then the flood happened,” Schei said.

Schei has been a community health worker at the Union Gospel Mission since August, but was called in to help with a staffing shortage at the thrift store. Then, a frozen pipe burst on the third floor, flooding much of the building.

“It was raining from the floor. And we had 98-percent humidity in here and it was just heartbreaking. Now I look at it, and it’s like wow,” Union Gospel Mission CEO Eric Weber said.

That wow factor is courtesy of volunteers in the community who worked quickly to repair the damage.

“Even the crew people that were here doing the water extraction was like, we can’t believe this was done in three weeks,” Weber said.

People also donated items to replace the merchandise that flooded. The plan was to open the thrift store by February first. But the mission just couldn’t find enough workers to hit the target date.

“We need people to haul in the donations, we need people to like run the till. We need people to go through the donations, sort them, so there’s kind of a lot of aspects we have to do just to get the stuff up and where it is right now, and we just don’t have the people to do it,” Thrift Store Director Dolly Iron Moccasin said.

Many businesses and non-profits face staff shortages. But jobs at the mission require a skill set not everyone’s suited for.

“We’re dealing with a lot of people sometimes with mental illness, alcohol addiction, drug addiction, and they still need clothes, they need blankets, so they know where to come,” Weber said.

Even though thrift store employees deal with some clients facing those issues, Weber says the jobs are not dangerous.

“And even if there is trouble here, a lot of our people that are in the store step up and help, so they’re deterring a lot of bad behavior,” Weber said.

Thrift store management says the jobs are rewarding because you’re helping people in the community who are at their most vulnerable.

“I enjoy being here. I’ve been here 11-plus years and I come to work every day. I don’t feel like grudgingly going to work. I’m happy to get up and go to work every day,” Iron Moccasin said.

Ever since the start of the pandemic, finding volunteers to work the thrift store, or the mission as a whole, has been a challenge.

“And so we see probably 25-percent of the volunteers coming back once a month than when we used to have volunteers who were here every day, so we’re not seeing that right now,” Weber said.

So the thrift store is dealing with the shortage of workers and volunteers by bringing in staffers from other areas of the mission. That’s why Schei is back working in the store.

“From pricing everything downstairs to sorting all the clothes to bringing everything up here and restocking everything,” Schei said.

But help for the clients extends beyond the checkout counter.

“I can help people where they come to get clothes but then it’s like, man, I’m behind on rent. Oh, you’re behind on rent? Let me tell you, you can go here, bring X, Y & Z, they can help you out,” Schei said.

You can still see water marks on the rafters: the telltale remnants of the flood that closed the thrift store back in December. But now that it’s open again, customers are finding the help they need from employees who may be small in number, but never lacking in an abundance of compassion.

The mission is looking to hire both full-time and part-time positions.