Commemorative milestones are traditionally observed by a time of celebration and reflection, and sometimes marked with customary tokens. For example, fine china is a traditional gift to signify 20 years of marriage. And while fine china may not be a common find among the thousands of donated items that are sold at Fayette Thrift Shop, many members of the local non-profit community have paused this year to simply acknowledge the generosity of spirit, hard work, and dedication exhibited by the charitable organization over the last 20 years.
Fayette Thrift Shop, located in Fayetteville, operates purely on an unpaid all-volunteer basis and donates 100 percent of its proceeds to two family domestic violence charities in Fayette County. Since its origin, the organization has made a cumulative impact of $1.4 million through monetary donations to Fayette Youth Protection Homes and Promise Place.
Eileen Patton and Asden Johnson, co-founders of Fayette Thrift Shop, crafted the concept in order to create a steady flow of monetary funds to support the two selected Fayette County charities. Johnson and Patterson, who were representatives for Fayette Youth Protection Homes and Promise Place, knew that maintaining a strong relationship between Fayette Thrift Shop and their non-profit beneficiaries would likely become the key to success for their new venture. In order to further promote mutual support and clear communication, the bylaws for Fayette Thrift Shop mandated that two board members must also serve on the boards for Fayette Youth Protection Homes and Promise Place.
It has taken over two decades of dedication to keep the thrift shop alive and thriving in the community. Fayette Thrift Shop has an active Board of Directors comprised of 14 members who work together to manage the shop, recruit and organize volunteers, and promote their existence and mission within the community. Going above and beyond the call of traditional duties, each board member contributes whole-heartedly to the organization, which sometimes means pitching in to help with routine demands, such as store cleaning after business hours.
“Since all the revenue from the shop is donated to charity, we try keep our expenses low,” states Jennifer Barnes, President of Fayette Thrift Shop. “One of the items on our wish list is a cleaning service. From time to time, I will find myself at the shop cleaning after business hours, while my own house is still dirty.”
In addition to a dedicated Board of Directors, Fayette Thrift Shop has a team of over 80 volunteers who pledge their services to the organization on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis in order to keep the store in operation. From store clerking to organizing merchandise, the volunteers are truly the lifeblood of the organization. When asked about turnover rates, Barnes noted that many of their volunteers have been helping for over 10 years.
“Between our regular shoppers, donors, and volunteers, we have created a little community of our own,” explains Dixie Anderson, Treasurer for Fayette Thrift Shop. “Some people come in every day, others every week. Elderly people in the area who have supported our store for over 15 years will often bring their children and grandchildren in with them to shop.”
Every year, the Fayette Thrift Shop Board of Directors shows their appreciation by hosting an annual Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast. Coinciding with their anniversary in September, the event is a time to express gratitude, come together as a community, and reflect on their accomplishments.
Businesses in Fayette County have been eager to support the dreams of the community thrift shop. In the past, J & R Clothing has donated a substantial amount of new merchandise to the organization, including brand-new suits valued at over $500. Earlier this year, a local Home Depot agreed to donate the labor and materials needed to spruce up their 2,000-square-foot retail store space located in the Big Lots shopping center in Fayetteville.
“Our past expansion has led to bigger sales, and ultimately larger monetary donations for the Fayette Youth Protection Homes and Promise Place,” commented Rosemary McIntire, Vice President of Fayette Thrift Shop, when asked about their previous move into the larger retail space. “New lighting, flooring, shelving, and a larger dressing room are all projects we look forward to undertaking with the help of Home Depot. We hope that these renovations will continue to attract more shoppers in the years to come.”
Fayette Thrift Shop also has a nearby separate storage facility, used to house non-seasonal donations. “We do not accept furniture, car seats, microwaves, or electronics, but we will take Christmas ornaments in July and beach totes in December,” explains McIntire, when asked about their donation guidelines.
Fayette Thrift Shop often receives donations from estate sales, and sometimes volunteers come across “hidden blessings” that help get the shop through tough times. One board member recalls finding a diamond necklace that was left in the pocket of a donated jacket. “The moral of the story,” she explained, “is when you donate, always go through the pockets!”
The diamond necklace went unclaimed, and two weeks later it was sold at the shop.
Over the past 20 years, Fayette Thrift Shop has bestowed many blessings upon the community. Although diamonds are not a typical piece to be found at a thrift store, perhaps the discovery of the diamond token, a memento traditionally used to commemorate an anniversary of 60 years, was just a small glimpse into the fruitful future of Fayette Thrift Shop.