Woodbury Boy Scout leads makeover of thrift shop entrance

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Stone Soup Thrift Shop recently got some sprucing up.

Its once-drab entryway in St. Paul Park sports bright new coats of red and yellow paint. New signs provide clear directions to customers.

The Woodbury teen responsible for the new look organized the makeover as part of his Eagle Scout service project.

But before he could lift a brush, Mark Leinberger, 17, had to write a proposal and present it to the board of directors at Basic Needs Inc., the nonprofit that runs Stone Soup. He also was required to get approval from the building owner and recruit volunteers. He used paint bought with donated gift cards from Home Depot and lumber donated by Lampert Lumber in Lake Elmo.

"In the entryway the main goal (was) to make it more welcoming and more inviting to the workers, volunteers and any customers that the nonprofit benefits," Leinberger said.

Since it opened in 1997, Stone Soup has given away tons of gently used furniture, clothing and household items to the homeless and financially distressed. They also sell items at their St. Paul Park store, but they often struggle to make their $20,000 monthly overhead.

The store's new look is more than cosmetic, board president Vickie Snyder said. Stone Soup occupies a former school building that is blocks away from the main business district of St. Paul Park. They don't get a lot of traffic. Snyder hopes the improvements to the entrance will prompt customers to tell their friends and neighbors.

"I am excited about the work Mark has done," Snyder, who was out of town, said in an email. "He has been dedicated and concerned that the work he has done turns out well.

Hopefully, our customers and the public can see that with this collaboration, that we are trying to improve our facility and that we are not going anywhere."

Wet weather delayed the project for a week. Heavy rains damaged the ceiling at the Stone Soup entrance, and the walls were too damp to paint.

The project was completed the weekend of Oct. 1. The crew included members of Boy Scout Troop 72 in Woodbury, including Arman Tabrizi and Nathaniel Moyer. Work began about 10 a.m. Saturday and concluded 4 p.m. Sunday.

Leingberger's parents, William and Mary also pitched in, as did his sister Annie, 14. Older brother John, 19, came home from college, too.

Leinberger and his fellow scouts also built a new workstation to replace the makeshift sorting table at Stone Soup. They carried it in piece by piece and assembled it in the back room.

"The original one is just the desk stacked on milk crates, so it's not very safe," Leinberger said.