Home Donors, Volunteers Organizations 'This special shop': Volunteers remember Hospice thrift shop in Auburn – Auburn Citizen

'This special shop': Volunteers remember Hospice thrift shop in Auburn – Auburn Citizen

14 min read

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Willard Memorial Chapel 10

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Willard Memorial Chapel in Auburn in October.

“Shop, donate and volunteer” sum up the many facets of the Friends of Hospice Thrift Shop and Boutique once located inside the Willard Memorial Chapel building. After 10 years of operating and providing financial support for hospice and palliative care providers in our community, the rooms once occupied sit empty. It was a very good run!

The core thrift shop opened in December 2010 with a Christmas open house. The women’s boutique opened in September 2014, expanding the space into a second room. The shop accepted donations of quality, gently used men’s, women’s and children’s clothing. Additionally, they took in other merchandise, such as home décor, antiques, collectibles and greeting cards. Volunteers sorted, checked and ensured that items were clean and in decent condition for resale. They then set up the displays.

The shop was staffed by more than 50 dedicated volunteers who, in 2019, provided over 3,000 hours of service. Two of those volunteers were Monica Bryla and Wanda Williams.

After retiring from her banking career, Monica finally had some time to volunteer, something she had always had an interest in doing. Terry Kline was then the executive director of Hospice of the Finger Lakes and invited Monica to come join them at their office on William Street. That position grew into a part-time position as the organization’s administrative assistant, and then back to volunteering.

Wanda became familiar with the shop when Hospice helped her and her family during her husband’s final days. Wanda said that she and her husband had been together for 30 years. When he passed and the kids had grown, it was difficult time for her. She needed help filling her time with something interesting and meaningful. Again, Terry stepped in, talking to her about volunteering. Wanda stated that she had no interest in office work; she didn’t have any experience with it and it didn’t appeal to her. So, when the shop was mentioned, she thought, “why not?” She noted that volunteering gave her a place to go and something useful to do.

Karen Macier

Karen Macier

Both Wanda and Monica raved about their time spent at the shop. Monica said she loved dealing with the customers, and all the other volunteers were fantastic as well. Wanda, who had never volunteered before, stated that she couldn’t have found a better organization to be with. She acquired new friends, explored new opportunities and developed a strong support system for which she is very grateful.

Monica had been with the shop since it opened. She liked meeting new people, supporting the wonderful work of Hospice, and working with the other volunteers. She stated that many of their donors had experienced Hospice in one way or another, and it was nice to see how they continued to support the organization. Wanda and Monica noted that Hospice as an organization is there for the whole family, and the community is lucky to have such a service.

“This special shop has been successful for nearly 10 years in large part due to our dedicated volunteer work force. We have had wonderful donors, customers and community support. Though bittersweet to close, it is the right thing to do during this difficult time,” Terry said. When the shop closed, fixtures and clothing went to local agencies. The Auburn Rescue Mission received clothing, household items and small furniture items for their clients. Several clothing racks were donated to Auburn Public Theater. Willard Memorial Chapel received racks, rugs and folding tables. United Church of Auburn on Metcalf Drive accepted clothing and linens. Regenerations received miscellaneous fixtures and household items. As always, volunteers took care bagging and distributing the goods.

Formed in 1995, Friends of Hospice is an all-volunteer organization. It was originally created to support Hospice of the Finger Lakes. Even after Hospice of the Finger Lakes merged with Hospice of Central New York, the friends group continues to coordinate critical fundraising activities to ensure residents of Cayuga County have the services they have long experienced. While many of their activities are on pause during the pandemic, the Friends look to return soon. If you would like more information on the Friends of Hospice, check their website at friendsofhospicecayugacounty.org.

Karen A. Macier, of Auburn, is executive director of the United Way of Cayuga County and has spent 20 years working and volunteering in the not-for-profit sector.

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