The meaning of ‘community’: Sharing and caring at the Cedar Chest

Photo and story by

Bryce Martin

Pioneer Editor

On the outside, the Cedar Chest is one of the busiest businesses in Bowman County.

Cedar Chest volunteer Esther Lininger smiles as a customer approaches the till. Volunteers are the life blood of the Cedar Chest’s activities in Bowman.
Cedar Chest volunteer Esther Lininger smiles as a customer approaches the till. Volunteers are the life blood of the Cedar Chest’s activities in Bowman.

Published November 1, 2013

The Herald

Inside, it comes alive with the dedication of its volunteers and the generosity of its customers.

The Cedar Chest provides a service for people that have been cleaning out the attic or trying on and dispersing of winter clothing that just doesn’t fit. The business welcomes those as donations and, with them, stock their shelves for other people who may find use for those possessions.

“We provide a really good service for people who want to get rid of things and people who want to buy things that are less expensive,” said Vivian Hernandez, who has been the manager at Cedar Chest for 10 years. “It’s not necessarily just for people in need. We have people who don’t have to shop here who come here all the time.”

The Cedar Chest in Bowman opened its doors in 1976. It was started to raise money for ABLE, Inc., starting in a small house on the other side of town. The location moved several times before in the former Mann’s Automotive Building at the end of Main Street.

Five years ago, the store settled down in its current building at 17 South Main St.

Perhaps the best facet of the Cedar Chest’s business is that 100 percent of its sale profits go directly to ABLE, Inc.

ABLE, Inc. and the Cedar Chest are under the Little Missouri Arc, which promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and actively supports their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes.

Members of Able help Hernandez during changeover and clean the Cedar Chest every Friday. They also shovel snow during the winter months.

Hernandez said she thoroughly enjoys her work at the Cedar Chest.

“I enjoy it a lot because there’s a lot of variety,” Hernandez said. “We help a lot of people.”

During various holiday seasons, the Cedar Chest adorns its large, street-view window with inspired decorations for all people to see, a part of managing the store Hernandez said she enjoys most. The inside also is transformed to mimic the holiday’s vibe.

For Christmas, Hernandez said the Cedar Chest has a large holiday open house.

“Working with the volunteers is really wonderful, too,” she said.

Around 45 people currently volunteer at the Cedar Chest, each with their individual work schedule.

Hernandez and the Cedar Chest cares for the work done by its volunteers, which is the sole cog in its “machine” – relying strictly on the kindness of scheduled volunteers to organize and distribute donations, ring up purchases and keep the shop clean.

In an effort to protect the safety of its volunteer base, the Cedar Chest completely removed the existing sidewalk in front of the store, which was in poor condition, according to Hernandez. New concrete was poured and a new sidewalk was built.

“All the volunteers here are retired, elderly mostly and we needed to fix it so it’s safer,” she said. “A lot of them are widows so it’s really a connection with other people. It gives them a reason to get out of their home and they really enjoy it.”

Some of the volunteers have worked at the Cedar Chest for more than 30 years. The oldest volunteer just moved away from the county, she was 92. She volunteered up to the day she left.

Eighty-five-year-old Esther Lininger is one of the volunteers at the Cedar Chest. She’s been operating the till on certain days for the past seven years.

“I love it. Never could do it before,” Lininger said.

Each May, the Cedar Chest shows its appreciation to its volunteers by awarding them Bowman Chamber Bucks and around Christmastime, there is a dinner.

Matching the generosity of its customers, on the other side of operations at the Cedar Chest is its own donating capability.

There are women in Scranton that put together packages for new, single mothers. The Cedar Chest also donates to the Bowman Regional Public Library. They have an easter egg hunt each easter and the Cedar Chest donates during that time. Hardcover books, videos or books on CD also are donated to the library.

The School of Promise also receives donations from the Cedar Chest. Items like toys and puzzles in good condition are donated to the school.

“If people come to the community and don’t have anything, we’ll let them take what they need and donate when they get a chance,” Hernandez said.


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