Thrift Shop Celebrates 50 Years Of Deals, 15 Years Of Memories For VNA President
While cooler spring weather prevailed outside, Newtown VNA President Anna Wiedemann sat behind the “check out desk” at the VNA Thrift Shop at Edmond Town Hall, May 29, monitoring a steady stream of customers who appeared to be thrilled at the selection of warm weather apparel and accessories packed into the cozy nook next to the lower gymnasium entrance.
Just like they have been for 50 years, NVNA Thrift Shop devotees and newcomers alike have sought and found fantastic deals perusing the racks of gently used and worn donations, which are resold at a fraction of their original cost — all to benefit the century-old local service organization.
While the Newtown VNA sees the Thrift Shop surviving as long as there are donations to stock it and people keep coming out to buy, the organization announced another longtime service is going away in the coming weeks.
Ms Wiedemann notified The Newtown Bee this week that it was closing its lending closet, which primarily provided donated second-hand medical equipment like crutches, commodes, and occasionally a wheelchair, to those in need at no charge. She explained that the NVNA’s insurance carriers will no longer provide coverage for loaning out medical equipment.
Since the local VNA agency is terminating the lending relationship, they are relinquishing ownership and responsibility for the equipment to any borrowers still in possession of loaned items.
“As such, our lender/borrower relationship is terminated,” Ms Wiedemann said in a note to the newspaper. However, she and the agency is not turning their backs on Newtown residents who may still need to access certain medical equipment.
Anyone who needs free medical equipment is simply asked to call 203-270-4377 to be referred to another provider.
Refocusing on the thriving thrift shop, the current NVNA president said she has fond memories of the operation going back to her first visit.
“I joined the VNA approximately 15 years ago. I, like many others, didn’t even know this little gem of a shop existed,” Ms Wiedemann said. “I saw a small ad advertising a Christmas Holiday Sale, I walked in, fell in love, and asked my first VNA friend Maureen McLachlan if they ever needed help in the Thrift Shop.”
Ms McLachlan said she was happy to have the help, as long as Ms Wiedemann was willing to become a NVNA member.
“Well, I told her that would leave me out because I am not a nurse, and she said while there are a couple of members who are nurses, most are not, and that the VNA of Newtown was a volunteer organization,” Ms Wiedemann said.
She was invited to come to a NVNA meeting, and Ms Wiedemann said she “was immediately taken under the wing of several wonderful women, Maureen McLachlan, Nancy Brady, and Mae Schmidle.”
“I worked most often with Nancy and Mae on Saturdays and on Wednesdays with Maureen. Nancy was a hoot,” Ms Wiedemann recalled. “She and Mae knew everyone in Newtown. She would point people in the shop out to me and all too loudly, give me the scoop. I learned not be mortified.”
While her willing thrift shop mentors trained Ms Wiedemann on the retail end of the operation — the shop is open Wednesdays from noon to 3 pm and Saturdays from 9 am to noon — in between, she and her fellow volunteers kept busy cleaning, pricing, and tidying up the displays.
“We all learned to save certain items for people,” Ms Wiedemann said, “and we always saved anything in red for Mae.”
The thing that endears Ms Wiedemann most about the shop is that throughout the years, she often called Judy Craven from the Congregational Church Thrift Shop for items that were requested but not available — and vice versa.
“This is usually when either one of us finds out about someone who is in need. It’s great to have two such wonderful stores in our community that not only have treasures but are true assets to the community,” Ms Wiedemann said.
“My dearest customer was Nell,” she remembered. “Nell waited for her Social Security check each month to come and shop and pick out things for her many grandchildren. She always fretted that she might not have enough money. And I always told her (as did many other of our volunteers), not to worry, that we’d give her a great deal,” Ms Wiedemann said.
“Nell always left happy. For the longest time, after she passed away, we had her obituary hung up in our shop — she was one of best regulars.”
Special Sales, Promotions
Ms Wiedemann was recently reminded about visiting the magnificent home of one local resident whose wife had passed years before. He was not immediately ready to part with her massive closet full of accessories and fashions, but once he made the call to the VNA to come and collect the goods, there was so many items, the Thrift Shop held a special sale just for everything received from that single donation.
“Another time, we had a special sale with some wedding dresses and gowns,” Ms Wiedemann said. “These special sales were always the brainchild of Mae Schmidle.”
Ms Schmidle knew how to market the shop, and frequently, throughout town, residents could find “coupons” that she created that would allow customers either a percentage off or $5 off their purchase.
Recently, Ms Wiedemann said, several new women joined the organization.
“Louise Howell and Ashley MacKay have an eye for moving items around so that they are displayed in an appealing manner to catch your eye,” Ms Wiedemann said. “They, along with Cris Fadus, move things in and out so that the store is never the same.”
Ms Fadus thought to purchase a box, which is located outside the shop, allowing for people to donate when it is not open.
“The sign outside the shop is also the brainchild of Cris,” Ms Wiedemann kidded about the large, brightly painted Thrift Shop placard. “There is no way people can miss where we are now.”
For more information on the NVNA Thrift Shop and non-medical volunteer opportunities with the organization, stop in during open hours or contact Ms Wiedemann at 203-270-4377.