When St. Luke Hospital Auxiliary Shoppe opened in Marion on Dec. 29, 2005, organizers were hoping the work would not be as hard as making and transporting pies to the park on Old Settlers Day and would bring in more revenue.
They could not have been more wrong about the first part but were wildly right about the second. Judy Reno was president of the auxiliary at the time.
“The shop is hard work,” she said, “but no one thought that being open nine hours would bring in almost $1,000 the first week.”
Reno, who has a background in public health, said she was at a regional meeting when she learned about a hospital auxiliary in Kingman that had established a thrift store as a successful fundraiser.
“As I went home, I thought, ‘We can do that,’” she said.
After a go-ahead from the board, she chose 12 people to serve on a committee that looked into every aspect of starting the shop — securing a building, furnishings, supplies, volunteers, and so forth.
“Some people said it wouldn’t work, but others came to us and offered numerous items such as carts and shelving,” she said. “Our actual purchase of stuff didn’t amount to much.”
According to longtime treasurer Eileen Sieger, the auxiliary had enough money to fund start-up costs without taking a loan. The biggest expense was $1,200 for a building deposit and two months’ rent for the former Quality Market it occupied.
In 10 years of existence, the store has produced more than $400,000 in net proceeds, most of which have gone to hospital and Living Center renovations, as well as a mammography machine and a bus for Living Center residents. The auxiliary also awards $1,200 in scholarships annually.
The only major expenditure that has come out of net proceeds was almost $50,000 for a new roof on the present building.
Reno said an outpouring of volunteerism right from the start is what has made it work. Along with personal time, donations of all kinds were made to get it going and keep it going.
The late Rosemary Garrard managed the store almost until her death last spring.
Move brings improvements
The store got a boost when the owner of the former Duckwall building donated it to St. Luke Foundation for the auxiliary shop.
Reno said the move in September 2013 brought some changes, including more room, management restructuring, and a surge of new volunteers.
“We’ve always had a lot of women volunteers, but more men stepped up,” she said. “We couldn’t have done it without men.”
The store has three managers. Mary Ann Conyers, display specialist, replaced Garrard. Richard Hein is building supervisor, and Walter Hein is cash courier.
Conyers uses her artistic ability to design window displays and other displays throughout the store.
Richard Hein takes care of maintenance, and his brother Walter deposits cash receipts and makes trips to Wichita each week to take some donations to the Helping Hands store.
The two men carry boxes and bags of donated goods in and out, keep the workroom organized, and continually make improvements to provide a pleasant, convenient workplace.
“We do whatever is needed,” Richard Hein said.
Walter Hein organized donations by season and size. Excess donations are stored upstairs in banana boxes from Carlsons’ Grocery.
“We have 375 boxes of Christmas items right now,” Richard said, “ and we get more items every day.”
Orville Pfeiffer, who helped remodel the building, fixes donated items that are in disrepair.
“He is a jewel,” Conyers said. “He makes things work that don’t work.”
She said eight to 15 people volunteer on Mondays to prepare for the upcoming weekend. Tuesday mornings are used to re-organize items from the previous weekend.
Many are benefited
Reno said the non-profit has benefited volunteers, customers, and the business community.
“It is group therapy for the volunteers in many ways,” she said, including people who are grieving over the loss of a loved one or are in retirement.
Customers benefit by having a place to buy good-quality items cheaply, and business owners have reported added business when thrift store shoppers are in town, Reno said.
Sometimes, when a family has a special need, the auxiliary provides free clothing, furniture, and other items. For instance, when the victims of a hurricane moved to town, the store helped them to furnish a house and replace items lost in the storm.
Reno said one thing that sets the auxiliary shoppe apart from most other thrift stores is that the workers are not paid. They are personable volunteers who connect with shoppers and make shopping fun, she said.
“I just feel good when I talk about it,” she said. “It took a group of people involved in the decision making. I can’t see that shop ever closing if we keep our hospital.”