New Auxiliary Shoppe helping hospital help community

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN LAURA CAMPBELL
The way Judy Reno sees it, everyone needs affordable clothing and household goods-and at some time or another, they’ll also need an up-to-date hospital nearby.

Through the St. Luke Hospital Auxiliary Shoppe that opened its doors Friday afternoon in Marion, area residents can now buy plenty of the first while making sure the second will still be around when they need it.

As a first-year auxiliary president, Reno said she borrowed the idea for a thrift store when she attended district meetings in May and heard of hospital auxiliaries in Kingman and Atchison that were operating stores-and turning a sizable profit.

“They had opened thrift stores and were really doing very well in the money they were able to contribute to the hospital,” she said.

Reno tested the idea with other auxiliants over the next six months, “and when I came back from the state meeting in November, we appointed a feasibility committee,” she said.

By Dec. 1, the committee had come back with a recommendation to proceed and the auxiliary had signed a lease on the lower level of the former Kraft Korner building at 404 E. Main.

“I wanted to open as soon as we possibly could,” Reno said. “We’ve just had a lot of people with stuff to give away that have been after us about when we’re going to be open.”

The spacious area is just what they’ve needed for all the donations that have poured in over the last month as they readied for their Dec. 30 opening, Reno said.

“We couldn’t use anything smaller at the rate we’re going. People just came forward with wonderful things-and it’s not trash,” she added with a smile.

In fact, the goal is to operate what Reno calls an upscale thrift store-and so far, the inventory supports that image.

“The clothes that have come in are fantastic-they’ve been clean and they’re still intact,” she said. “And there are some things that aren’t even out of the packages.”

But upscale doesn’t mean expensive, Reno emphasized.

“Everything we make will be a profit,” she said. “So we’re pricing them to sell.”

Most adult clothing will sell for $2, children’s clothing for $1.50 and baby items for 50 cents, she said.

But antique dealers should be on the alert. Reno said she has some items that might interest them, and she’s trying to price them accordingly.

“Some that we know are (antiques) we’re not going to charge a dollar for,” she said particularly of some baskets and tin boxes “that you just don’t see anymore.”

“But I don’t want to make it so high that regular people can’t do it,” she added.

Reno expects the venture to bring in a steadier stream of money for the hospital than any individual fund-raisers have been able to do in the past-and with a lot less effort on their part.

More involved fund-raisers, such as last year’s high tea and vintage-wedding-dress fashion show, left auxiliants physically spent. Smaller-scale efforts, such as making pies for Old Settler’s Day, simply haven’t raised enough money.

“That brought us in $1,400 last year, which doesn’t go very far,” Reno said. “It just seemed, as I sat and looked at these other people in these other towns and what they were able to make, that we’ll make 10 times that even in our first year-and just think what that’ll be able to do.”

Proceeds from the thrift store and other auxiliary projects go toward hospital renovations as well as the purchase of much-needed equipment.

“They are things that are updated, so we don’t have to go 60 miles either way to have access to that kind of equipment,” Reno said.

About a dozen auxiliants and other volunteers-mostly retired individuals-have been working hard at sorting, pricing and arranging donated items in the store, Reno said.

“I’ve never seen such hardworking people,” she said. “The volunteers here are just fantastic. There are 80-some-year-old people here, and I can’t keep up with them.”

When they have time, volunteers will eventually do some rearranging and decorating so the store looks less like a large yard sale, Reno said.

“Once we get things flowing, some of us will be working on display,” she said.

While she has a full two-page list of volunteers, Reno said she won’t turn away anyone who wants to lend a hand either in the back of the store or on the floor.

“If this would give somebody something to do, I’d really be delighted to have them,” she said.

There’s no urgent need for more items at the moment, but Reno said they’ll require a steady stream of donations to keep the store going.

“Just routinely think of us,” she said. “We’re going to be open 12 months a year.”

Drop-off hours are the same as shopping hours: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.

“If there are people who are older and just can’t get out to drive and have things to donate, they can call me and we’ll send someone to go pick it up,” Reno added.

She’d especially welcome the help of area retailers who would donate surplus inventory to further “upscale” the value of the thrift store’s selection.

Such support at both individual and corporate levels will be crucial to the success of not only the store but also the hospital it will serve.

“I think that a successful project like this will help revitalize the community,” Reno said. “And the community has come together, because they’re so anxious for it to be a success. They want this community to be vibrant and full.”

While she and husband Wayne moved to Marion County Lake a mere six years ago from Wichita, Reno is fully aware of the need for a community-supported, up-to-date hospital in a rural county.

“We can’t stand still-we have to move forward in the hospital, or we won’t have one,” she said.

“And a community needs to have a hospital, so that when each of us needs it, it’s there for us.”

For more information, call Judy Reno at 620-382-8841.

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