Pastor Steve Leppert stands outside of the rummage sale on First Street during an open shopping day on Friday, Jan. 19, 2023. Photo by Kinsey Brown for The Cordova Times

Much to the delight of local Cordova shoppers, the community thrift store and rummage sale has reopened after a brief winter break. Over a dozen shoppers mingled in the location on First Street last Friday during one of the first shopping days since before the space closed for the holidays.  

The rummage sale is operated by pastor Steve Leppert of the Cordova Church of the Nazarene. While the church handles the insurance payment on the building, which belongs to the Salvation Army, Leppert heads up the weekly operations as a separate endeavor led by himself and the help of volunteers. The space is typically open each week during the summer, and closes November through December for a break – which is needed to clean out the remainder of donated items. The return of the rummage sale this week was much anticipated by Cordovans as evidenced by the amount of donations received within the first day of acceptance.  

“We had over two hundred bags and boxes dropped off,” Leppert said.  

Leppert says he understands that the rummage sale space provides a much-needed service to the community whether it be passing on things people no longer need, or helping connect others with items on their shopping lists that may be otherwise difficult to find in rural Alaska on short notice. No matter the need, Leppert says he’s happy to help items find new homes.  

“This would all be in the dump,” he said of the tables and racks full of donated items. “That’s where all this stuff would go.”  

The goal of the rummage sale is not making money, but rather to provide needed goods to community members.  


“We do $5 all you can fit in a bag, but I give more stuff away than anything else,” Leppert said.  

Leppert keeps a running mental cross reference of items that are available and of the people who may need them.  

“If you walked in and it was raining and had sneakers on, I’d ask what size you are because I might have a pair [of boots] in the back,” he said.  

Any money that is paid or donated at the rummage sale goes to benefit various programs for children. Each year the majority of the fund is used to support gifts for Operation Christmas Child. According to Leppert, money made through the sale this past year provided 163 soccer balls to children in developing countries. Extra profits from the sale have also gone to local school programs such as Cordova High School sports or the Girl Scouts.  

“All the money goes to kids,” Leppert said. “It’s the people’s money, not me. It’s their generosity.” 

Leppert has expanded his efforts to include much more than just collecting and distributing household goods. The space is also used for distributing meals to community members.  

In November, Thanksgiving meals are distributed, and again in the spring around St. Patrick’s Day. In previous years, meal distribution events included Saturday Soup where volunteers offered to bring homemade soup and chili to be shared. Now, Leppert has pivoted to offering free hotdogs during events and sometimes on the weekend. Leppert says he plans to have hot dogs and hamburgers available during the upcoming Iceworm Parade.  

Leppert says that through the seasons there is always someone to serve through the rummage sale space whether it be a fisherman who needs pots and pans for the boat, or a visiting cannery worker who needs a set of sheets.  

Leppert continues to look for ways to serve the community. This past summer, Leppert partnered with Kristi Rubio to offer a special children’s clothing drive at the Masonic building where all clothing was free of charge. During the winter he began giving away cookies and cocoa on Fridays as well, an event he plans to continue until April when he will return to offering hot dogs again.  

In 2022 Leppert received the Citizen of the Year award at the Iceworm Festival for his efforts. Leppert says the community support has been positive and wants to keep it up for the foreseeable future.  

“I enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun and a lot of work, but it’s a blessing to see people get things they need,” he said.  

The rummage sale will be operating two days a week every other week until the spring. Donations will be accepted on Mondays, and the store will be open for shopping on Fridays.  

Leppert encourages volunteers to come help sort donations and reminds community members to please not leave donations outside of the building during when it is closed.