One from the Heart
A Treasure Trove of Volunteers
What a unique group of women in business I found at the St. Francis Thrift Shop on William Hilton Parkway. These volunteer ladies operate a wonderful store filled with unique items at bargain prices. They are dedicated, cheerful, and eager to serve. A huge sign in front of their shop says only one word: "WELCOME." They really mean it! I asked member Eleanor Bell to share some information, facts, and fun stories from the shop.
Pink: Eleanor what is so special about this particular time at St. Francis Thrift Shop?
Eleanor: This is our tenth anniversary! We are so very proud of that and of all of the dollars we have granted to the community and to our school at St. Francis Church. We are also proud of the fact that we now have more than 200 volunteers - men, women, and members of PEP (Programs for Exceptional People) - who work together to make this shop the gift that it is to them as a dedicated team and to the community with whom we interact. Our volunteers range in age from young women to several in their nineties! They come from all walks of life, but the one thing they all say is that they love to meet new people, make new friends, help the less fortunate, and do something worthwhile for the community.
P: Talk a little about the "nuts and bolts" of being a volunteer at St. Francis.
Eleanor: Volunteers can choose the day or days that best suits their own schedule. They can give as much or as little time as they feel they are able. They can choose their own niche, too. Some ladies love working as cashiers where they meet directly with the public. Others prefer to work on the sales floor assisting with furniture, art, or helping someone find just that right piece of clothing. Some like the jewelry counter, while others prefer to arrange flowers. We also have our behind-the-scenes crew who sort donations and incoming treasures or price merchandise. The variety is endless - we truly have something for everyone.
P: What sort of items do you like to receive as donations and what kind of things do you usually get?
Eleanor: A steady stream of donations arrive in the back room daily, everything from color televisions, computers, designer clothes, furniture, sporting goods, luggage, small housewares and appliances, linens, books, jewelry and art. One of the joys of volunteering is discovering what treasures have been dropped off - usually in a black garbage bag or cardboard box. Believe me, there is no typical day. Every day can be a surprise!
P: Tell me some of the funny stories you have encountered.
Eleanor: We once got a piece of very odd looking furniture. It had funnels like a flour sifter attached and a large board that looked like a board for dough. We found out it was called a Hoosier Cabinet and imagine our surprise when a customer came in and bought it at once telling us it was exactly what she had been looking for! Volunteers have also found that it is not good to leave something around in the shop. We once sold a volunteer's teacup even though it still had tea in it; yes, someone rinsed it out and put it on display where it sold at once.
P: How does a group go about asking for a grant and approximately how much have you donated over your ten years?
Eleanor: About four years ago we celebrated our one-million mark, so we are well above that now. That is money donated throughout the community, as well as to our school. To qualify, a non-profit group should submit a grant request to Diane Hyland who is the Assistant Manager. She processes the application. We have a list of recipients posted as you enter the front of the store. There is a tremendous feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment knowing that the work you do is helping someone in the community through our outreach ministry. The founding members have watched the shop grow by leaps and bounds to where it is today. We also have great visions for the future and the wonderful volunteers who make the shop the success that it has become will all be a part of that vision.
P: Thank you so much, Eleanor, for speaking on behalf of St. Francis Thrift Shop. Do you have any words in closing?
Eleanor: Yes, I do. We invite you to stop by and visit us at 6 Southwood Parkway midway on the Island. We also invite you to pick up the phone and give us a call at 689-6563 to volunteer, find out the specials of the week, or just find out what we are all about. You are very welcome here as our sign says. God bless!