St. Luke’s Hospital Thrift Shop closes its doors in October

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, September 7, 2016

St. Luke’s Hospital Thrift Shop retail store front in downtown Tryon. (photo by Leah Justice)

St. Luke’s Hospital Thrift Shop retail store front in downtown Tryon. (photo by Leah Justice)

After 60-plus years of selling gently used  merchandise to raise funds to improve local healthcare, St. Luke’s Hospital Auxiliary has made the tough decision to close the downtown Thrift Shop. The shop will close its doors on Oct. 29, 2016, because of a decline in the number of volunteers to staff the store and a general downward trend in retail selling.

“Closing the thrift shop has been a really tough and strategic decision,” said Kathy Watson, president of the Auxiliary. “It has meant so much to our volunteers and to the community. The Thrift Shop has provided the hospital with much needed support in the past, but times have changed, and the store is just not able to continue because of limited staffing and high overhead costs. With the exception of the store manager, the shop is operated entirely by unpaid volunteers, and that has been quite a challenge in itself.”

St. Luke’s Hospital Chief Executive Officer Jim Bross said, “On behalf of the hospital, we thank the volunteers who made the store a success for so many years, and we look forward to seeing what new and creative ways they come up with to support the hospital and healthcare in this community.”

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The downtown Tryon thrift shop, operated by St. Luke’s Hospital Auxiliary, donates its proceeds directly to the hospital each year. The store is currently open only on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The shop is no longer accepting donations and seeks to sell as much inventory as possible before the closing. Special sales are being offered over the next two months, so the community should be able to get some really great buys.

Remaining merchandise will be offered to Step To Hope for sale in the Second Chance Thrift Shop. Any donations can be taken directly to Second Chance in downtown Columbus.

Coordinator of Volunteer Services Gayle Cook said the Auxiliary is using this as a chance to refocus its mission and priorities.

“What we’re seeing now with the thrift shop closing is a bittersweet step of the Auxiliary’s evolution. We’re all going to miss the shop, but we’ll have other ways to interact with the community and with patients.”

Cook said the thrift shop isn’t the only not-for-profit organization having difficulty retaining volunteers–locally and across the country. According to data from the United States Department of Labor, volunteering has steadily declined nationally since 2011.

“The quality of our volunteer team couldn’t be higher,” Cook said. “But we needed more quantity in order to staff the shop and stay open throughout the week. Recruiting more volunteers will probably be a focus of the Auxiliary in the coming months. Eventually, I think we can be more efficient, raise more money and help raise awareness for the hospital.”

This change does not affect the Gift Shop which is located in St. Luke’s Hospital front lobby. Proceeds from the sale of jewelry, gifts, greeting cards and books in the Gift Shop are currently used to support scholarships for students going into the healthcare field.

“This is a giving community with people willing to donate their time and talents,” Cook said. “I feel certain we can find a way for them to channel their goodwill and work toward improved healthcare in our community.”

Anyone interested in volunteering at St. Luke’s Hospital or joining the Auxiliary should contact Cook at (828) 894-0895.

– article submitted by Kathy Woodham