COLDWATER, Mich. — Kristen Niedzwiecki opened the Good Better Best shop in 2020 for the best possible reason.
"Here, we believe that education is the best way to better a community. And, so that's why we take our proceeds, and we put our time and effort into raising money to support education in Branch county," explained Niedzwiecki. "As long as it's educational related, then we give our funds to that if we have the funds available."
The shop boasts a variety of items for shoppers to rummage through; all donated by members of the community.
"The Good Better Best shop is three stores... The good is that stuff that's got a little bit of life left, but maybe it's very, very affordable. And then the better stuff has a little bit more life, a little more value. And then we have the best. You know, sometimes [...] people donate new items, or a set of china or something with a little more value."
In its first year in business, Good Better Best was able to give back $42,000, in the form of teacher grants and student scholarships.
As a former educator, Niedzwiecki is glad to help fill a void created by cutbacks and budgets that are already stretched thin.
"I taught for Coldwater schools for 12 years," she said. "I know, as a classroom teacher, how much I spent on the little extras just to make the lesson special or, you know, do something special for my class."
"I value education; my family does. And, so that's kind of where that started."
While the store was her idea, Niedzwiecki credits volunteers and the community for making it a success.
"I kind of have to step back and shake my hand, go, 'I cannot believe this is what it is.' But it's not me. It's the group of volunteers that have rallied behind this concept... I only have so much time and effort and ideas to give. But, our volunteers are just amazing. And the way they step up and they take part and they do. It's just... it's amazing to see."
Niedzwiecki has a goal of raising $70,000 this year.
Good Better Best is located at 101 West Chicago Street in Coldwater.
If you live in Branch County and want to learn more about how to apply for funding, visit the store's Facebook page here.
As the FOX 17 and Lake Michigan Credit Union Pay it Forward Person of the Month, Niedzwiecki is receiving a $550 prize.