Local

May 31, 2012

Everyday items, treasures available at FH Community Thrift Shop

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Story and photos by Beth Bellizzi
Special to the Scout

Five local, tax-exempt, non-profit organizations were awarded a total of $7,800 in monetary disbursements from the Fort Huachuca Community Thrift Shop on May 17. Pictured (from left to right): Lindy Roberts, thrift shop disbursement chairperson; Laura Lopez, Bisbee High School Project Graduation; Dennis Bieicki, Buena High School Project Graduation; Irma Low, thrift shop volunteer; Tom Gross, Tombstone High School Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Program; Maria Eichenberger, thrift shop volunteer; Harry Walthers, Sierra Vista Community Chorus; and Lynn Michaud, thrift shop volunteer. Disbursement awardee unavailable for photo: CANTER (Cochise Area Network of Therapeutic Equestrian Resources).

It was a Thursday and they were prepared; they left their checkbooks at home and armed themselves with plenty of dollar bills. The large sign on the entrance states, “CASH ONLY,” and that’s what they brought. Some came just to look, hoping to find a treasure. Others had a goal in mind. The regulars, many greeted by employees, knew how to maneuver through the shelves, investigating items beyond eye-level.

With a variety that rivals any major retailer and the customer service of an old-time general store, this is the scene repeated at least twice each week at the Fort Huachuca Community Thrift Shop. The non-profit organization sells clothing and merchandise that has been consigned or donated to generate revenue solely to support its charitable initiatives.

According to Thrift Shop Bookkeeper Tanya Gittinger, each Tuesday and Thursday the thrift shop consigns between 1,000 to 1,200 new items and “500 to 600 [of the items] go out the door the same day.”

Located just past the Main Gate entrance to post, the iconic former warehouse with the bright yellow sign is open from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday and the first Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

The heartbeat of the thrift shop is maintained by manager Diane Pullman. Her zeal for the shop, its volunteers, employees and customers is evident upon meeting her.

“Good morning, thrift shop, Diane speaking,” Pullman politely replied to a phone inquiry. “I don’t know if we are taking women’s again, but I know we are taking men’s and children’s. You can consign 20 items a day [during consignment hours]. You’re welcome.”

If on permanent-change-of-station orders, for a 30-day period during each day the shop is open, authorized users may consign up to 40 items after presenting PCS orders to the thrift shop staff. Consignment hours are from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday and from 9 a.m. – noon on the first Saturday of every month.

Although its commitment to customer service has not changed, the thrift shop has modified its internal business operation over the years.

“I learned to cashier when we had an old, crank register and you had to figure everything in your head,” said Pullman, who started as a volunteer in 1975. Now cashiers scan price tickets into a computer and the sale information “goes right into the customer’s account,” Pullman stated.

The use of technology has also helped the thrift shop improve communication with potential consigners and shoppers. On its Facebook page, “Ft. Huachuca Community Thrift Shop,” staff posts which items they are no longer accepting and other general information.

Noting the unique variety of items in the 11,000-square-feet shop, Pullman said, “We get crystal in here. We get antiques in here. You just never know what you’ll find.”

Although most household items are easily consigned, a caveat remains about furniture. Consigners must call before bringing in furniture and large appliances to ensure space is available for consignment.

All consignment items are inspected through the thrift shop’s quality control standards. Merchandise and clothing must be clean and usable. Complete consignment guidelines are available in the thrift shop office.

While purchases are open to anyone with legal access to post, consignment is reserved for individuals here on temporary duty or who live within 150 miles of Fort Huachuca and are: active and retired regular and reserve component military and dependents; active and retired civil service employees; Veterans Administration identification card holders; or volunteers not in the previous categories who have completed an initial 20 volunteer hours and maintained an average of 10 volunteer hours per month.

The thrift shop staff is transparent with first-time consigners about its use of the 25-percent fee it retains from all sales.

“We tell everyone that 50 percent of our profits [from every sale] go to our scholarship fund and 50 percent goes to our [community] disbursement fund,” said Lindy Roberts, thrift shop disbursement chairperson. This year, the thrift shop awarded $36,000 in scholarships to local high school seniors. Disbursements are awarded every other month; scholarships once a year. Fund applications are available in the thrift shop office.

The thrift shop provides non-monetary donations to the community as well. If consignment items are not sold after approximately three months, they are given to local charities.

The Fort Huachuca Community Thrift Shop may be reached at 458.4606 or fhthriftshop@yahoo.com.




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