by Lori Hinton
Ready to feel the love this Valentine’s? You don’t have to go far…
Make a stop at Discovery Shop. Whether it’s a cashmere sweater, a vintage hat, or a unique piece of jewelry, get your Valentine here and you know it’s already special because it will be loved more than once. Better yet, whatever you get, you know you’ll also give back (all proceeds go to the American Cancer Society).
But there’s more. Give a donation of gently used gems, or give your time (volunteers do weekly 4-hour shifts), and you’ll discover it’s much more than a thrift store. It’s a community. A support group. A reason to get up each day. A place full of hope, and love.
Run entirely by committed volunteers (over 70 of them, in fact), and open every day of the week, Discovery Shop has raised over 2 million dollars for cancer research while giving back to The Junction community for over 24 years. There is a special sense of giving here that goes both ways.
“I had one gentleman who brought in a few of his wife’s treasured items, including a beautiful necklace he’d given her,” recalls volunteer Suzanne Rowe. “When he handed it to me, I could tell he was finally ready to say goodbye. He told me she was a Discovery Shop shopper, and he thought it was fitting that these special items be donated as a way for him to honor her memory.“
Many volunteers have been touched by cancer, often having battled and won themselves, or having lost a friend, sibling, spouse, or child to the disease. And for some, coming here to volunteer is what keeps them going.
“We have women in their eighties and nineties who take the bus here to do their weekly shifts,” explains Chairman Winni Field. “They do steaming and ironing and keep on chugging. It’s inspiring to see. If they can do it, so can we.”
But it takes all kinds because “there’s a lot to do to keep a little shop open,” says Field. There’s a bookkeeper, cashiers, dishwashers, steamers, ironers, a display and merchandising crew, sorters, cleaners, electronic repair people, price makers, taggers, artists, newsletter writers, handymen (and women) and more. And everyone plays an important role. After all, relying on donations, when you accept almost anything you need people who work on everything! It’s a complex machine that makes use of many talents, but at the heart of the matter is love.
You can feel the love in the depth and quality of the gently used items themselves. “It starts with the donors with whom we form a relationship, a kinship,” says Rowe. “They know we’ll show respect for their treasures and put them out in an artful way.” Only clean, polished quality items go out on the floor.
You can feel the love in the meticulous merchandising (volunteers take pride in their beautiful displays).
You can feel the love in the staff’s attitude. When volunteers come in, they shine. It’s how they choose to spend their time. “It’s a joy, not a burden,” says Rowe. “It’s rewarding for volunteers and for the customers.”
You can feel the love between staffers (some have been at this together for decades).
You can feel the love when a stranger walks in who has just been diagnosed, and a staff member offers a hug, an ear to listen, and a shoulder to cry on.
You can feel the love when a mastectomy patient comes in looking for an elegant dress to celebrate finishing her last round of treatment. The staff zips around the store outfitting her with beautiful things while filling her with hope.
“When you or a loved one is faced with cancer, it’s such a helpless feeling,” reflects Field who lost a dear friend to the disease. “You wonder what you can you do. This [Discovery Shop] is a way to give back, to do something.”
So this Valentine’s, whether you want to give or you’re hoping to receive, pop on by Discovery Shop to feel the love from all angles.
“It’s the heart of The Junction for a lot of people,” smiles Rowe. “They see us as not only a retail outlet, but a social hub—many of our customers are regulars who know volunteers by name. When they come in they share stories about their lives, their struggles and their successes.”
4535 California Ave SW
Seattle, WA 98116
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