Treasure Thrifted is Charity GiftedJun 23, 2023 03:11PM ● By Colleen M. Story
Step into the Fruita Thrift Shop and you’re sure to find some good deals. Hang around a while and you’ll find a lot more than that.
“The main reason people come is it gives them a good feeling,” said Kayren Goss, treasurer of the Fruita Thrift Shop, located in the center of Fruita at 142 S Park Square. “Everyone is like family. They come in for the great buys, but also because of the socialization.”
“Family” is a word you’ll hear again and again when talking to the all-volunteer staff and board members. And it makes sense, as they’re all working together for a greater purpose—donating money to worthy recipients.
In 2022, the Fruita Thrift Shop donated over $100,000 to various groups around the Grand Valley, including the Future Farmers of America (FFA), all the local food banks, Veterans Arts Center, Grand Valley Horse Rescue, Eureka! Science Museum, Fruita Fall Festival, Meals on Wheels, student baseball teams and many more.
That’s pretty amazing considering customers can purchase like-new clothes at the shop for around a dollar or two. You wouldn’t think this little nonprofit organization could raise that much money in a single year.
But then you start talking to the volunteers and you begin to get the bigger picture. This is about people helping people, and how wonderful it feels to do that.
Donation stay in the Valley
Charlene Longhorn, scheduler of the counter volunteers, worked at School District 51 for 30 years before she retired. She figured she would spend retirement catching up on gardening and other tasks around her home. But then a friend of hers, Eugenie “Genie” Brandhorst, encouraged her to volunteer at the thrift shop.
“I just couldn’t get interested at first,” Longhorn said. “But Genie was working there at the time and praised the shop and how fantastic it was to volunteer there. I thought, ‘Well, I could try it.’”
It took Longhorn only a couple of visits to “get hooked,” as she says.
“One thing that really hit me is giving to the Fruita Hospital when it was built. We gave $100,000 over four years,” she said. “And when the fire department needed to be rebuilt…we were able to over four years give $100,000 to them too. Helping people with this money is great.”
Goss, a nurse and member of other civic groups like the Fruita Lions, feels the same. Having been with the shop for over 20 years, she’s been treasurer since 2014.
“When we see where our money goes it makes us feel good,” said Goss, 75. “This is why we’re doing it.”
Shopping is fun again
That family feeling the volunteers talk about extends to the customers, too, making this an unusual place in today’s world where that personal touch still exists.
“I love talking to the customers and finding out what they may be using their items for,” Longhorn said. “It’s fun to hear what they do with all their stuff.”
With inflation and prices continuing to rise, everyone also appreciates the thrift shop’s affordability.
“A lot of seniors are living on a limited income,” said Goss. “The way prices have gone up…they can get a magazine here for a dime!”
She told the story of one man who watches for copies of “Reminisce” to take home to his wife.
“She just loves it, because it reminds them of their childhood,” said Goss.
And with the volunteers carefully sorting things, you can expect to find some gems.
“It’s like a treasure chest in there,” said Goss. “You just never know what you may find.”
Another story she tells is of a grandmother who used to bring in her young grandson. He called the thrift store the “Vroom” store because he found so many fun toy cars in there!
“We had a grandmother who would buy clothes for her teenage granddaughter and she wore them to school,” said Longhorn. “We have articles sometimes with their tags still on! Her friends were just envious of her and how well she dressed and it was things from the thrift shop. The grandma was so proud to tell us that story.”
The thrift store is one popular place, and they’ve been growing like gangbusters! What started in 1951 as a hospital thrift shop—the first item they sold was a five-cent tin cup, Goss said—is now a thriving organization.
“We’ve moved five times,” said Goss.
They started in a feed store, then ended up in the old Masonic Lodge. In 1993, they moved into the building they are in now just south of Fruita’s Circle Park.
Ten years ago, to accommodate the growing number of donations, they bought a car wash and used it as a storage unit. Last year they bought the liquor store next door to them, which now serves as the annex where customers can find furniture, sports equipment and electronics. The main building houses books, housewares, shoes, crafts, toys and more.
“And we’re still out of room!” said Goss.
Volunteer with a purpose
Seniors looking to volunteer are hard-pressed to find a better place to donate their time.
“You can work as much or as little as you want,” said Longhorn.
Volunteers can help sort and display items when the store is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays between 8 a.m. and noon. When the store is open Wednesdays through Saturdays, the shop needs people to run the checkout counter.
Shifts are broken up between morning and afternoon to avoid “wearing people out.” That means more people are needed, particularly in the summer when donations tend to increase and volunteers leave to go on vacation.
“The group of people we volunteer with are awesome,” said Goss. “Two ladies work in the toys and they’re always laughing and playing with the toys. We have a lady who does books. I’m in charge of the shoe department. We have certain ladies who do clothing, a lady who works in the kitchen and one man that repairs things. If we get anything electronic, he checks them out before we put them out on the shelf to make sure they’re in good working condition.”
The shop would enjoy someone who can repair bicycles, too.
Young people are also needed to help with the heavy lifting. Students 16 years of age and older can volunteer and earn credits for school or other organizations.
Plus, they can buy stuff at a “big discounted price,” according to Nancy Beavers, 82, president of the board.
“Why would I go to Dillard’s and pay $100 for something I can get for $1.50?” Beavers remarked.
She agrees that there’s something special about volunteering at the thrift shop.
“There’s wonderful camaraderie there,” she said. “Once you’re working there and you see what you can do with the nickels and dimes from the donations that people give us, and see that most people take pride in what they’re giving us…it kinda gets under your skin (in a good way). You find yourself passionate about helping people.”
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