When the Scott & White Hospice Thrift Store opened in May 2000, the purpose was to support the needs of hospice patients and to provide a place for families to donate cherished treasures after a loved one died.
But in the years since its founding, Susan Robison and her staff of employees and volunteers have turned the store into a multi-purpose hub of community service.
“I was in charge of reorganizing the store when I took it over,” Ms. Robison said. “We painted the walls, changed the racks and replaced light bulbs. It was mostly done with volunteers and a lot of help from my husband.”
Robison not only refurbished and reorganized the store, but she also streamlined its practices to make the store more efficient.
“When I first started, the shop was closed Sunday and Monday, but now we’re open seven days a week so everybody could take a shift,” she said.
The store has also become more environmentally-friendly by implementing a recycling system that has allowed Robison to cut the trash budget down $400.
“We recycle everything—clothing, cardboard, wire hangers, coats,” Ms. Robison said. “The only things that actually go in the dumpster are things that are broken—garbage. We don’t fill a dumpster in a week and for a thrift store to not fill a dumpster a week is a miracle.”
The store manager wants to not only create more funds for the hospice patients to whom all of the store’s profits go, but she also wants to create a place for people to go when they need a helping hand.
“We collect coats for (a local clothing drive), we collect cans for a food pantry and we try to fill the needs of others in the community,” Robison said. “Just the other day, the Scott & White ER called and said they needed sweat pants for their patients who had their clothes cut off during trauma.”
The thrift store has also provided clothing for battered women who have come in the store with just the clothes on their back and even victims of a local apartment fire who came to the store in their pajamas.
“I got a call and we opened the store just for them.”
The staff has also made it possible for children who can’t afford to see mall Santas at Christmas time to still share in the festive experience.
“We had a Christmas party where everything in the store was 50 percent off,” she said. “We had a Santa Clause and the kids took their pictures with him.”
Despite all of the good work the store accomplishes, Robison said none of it would be possible without the help of her volunteers.
“We’re really happy to have volunteers here,” Robison said. “By having volunteers, we’re able to maintain the wages for our employees so we have more that trickles down to the patient. The store really requires volunteers to help run it.”
One of those volunteers, Andy Putnam, started working at the thrift store after he saw his mother not only volunteer herself, but also suffer from a terminal illness like the hospice patients he helps to support.
“My mom had cancer, so I just decided to come here and volunteer,” Mr. Putnam said. “I know (the money) goes to a good cause.”
Now, like his mother before him, he has become a regular volunteer and a familiar face in the thrift store located at 601 E. Main Street in Belton.
“I probably put in about 40 hours a week,” he said. “If I don’t have a permanent job, then I come down here and work.”
Putnam isn’t the only volunteer who puts in a full day’s work at the store. Robison said their volunteers, mostly placed through Scott & White Volunteer Services, work a total of 700 hours a month.
Our Duty and Obligation
“Their job is to go through and sort what is good and what is not good from the merchandise that hits the dock,” she said. “And anything that has a value goes in and is priced at fair market value for a used item.”
If a person takes the time to load the merchandise in their car and drive it across town and donate it to the hospice program, then the volunteers and employees are going to touch every item, according to Robison.
“It’s our obligation and it’s our duty,” she said. “They intended it, by bringing it here, that it would get fair market value. Otherwise, they would have just thrown it in the garbage can.”
Even though maintaining the store like she thinks it should be run is more than a full-time job, Robison said she loves what she does and she loves the store.
“I love what (the store) does because I see the benefits of what it does for people who are in such a situation. They need our help.”
The store manager hopes to continue that love throughout 2010 and continue improving the store.
“Last year we were trying to get the store secure, so this year is about making it better for the employee.” She said. “That’s our mission, and I think it will actually end up being better for the customers.”
For more information about The Scott & White Thrift Store or ways you can help, please call 254-939-8230.