‘Happy’ Coyle is happy to help dress the front window at the Economy Cottage, a thrift store on Dewdney Trunk Road that raises money for Ridge Meadows Hospital.
The thrift store sells everything from clothes to clothes hangers, candles, books and toys, sporting goods and kitchen ware, bedding and wigs. Most all of it is donated, many by adults whose parents have passed away. It is stored in a back locker and sorted in a back room.
Happy and others, headed up by team manager Pat Lovatt, go through it all and 12 times a year or so she uses items to decorate the store’s front window. The current theme is kids and summer. Before that it was Canada Day. Next is back to school.
It takes Happy and another volunteer four to five hours to set up the front window, which cottage co-ordinator Karen Moritz said is vital to the store’s success.
“It’s the most important part,” she said. “If there’s something in the window that someone wants, they’ll come in to the store.”
The more the store sells, the more is raised for the hospital.
The Ridge Meadows Hospital Auxiliary runs the cottage, as well as the gift shop at the hospital. Together the two locations raised close to $200,000 for the hospital last year to help purchase items on a ‘Wish List.’
Among those, money from the auxiliary helped purchase last year: dolphin macerators; mobility kits; Ibion Ergo XR Patient X-ray chair; two BreezyRelax 2tilt WC. ADJ. Seat Depth; 500 comforters; sleeper chairs; tilt cam modes; neurological treatment table; mobile sphygmomanometer; otoscope set; hip protectors; mattresses; cervical biopsy forceps.
Thanks to all the volunteers.
But there are too few of them.
Happy and Karen are among 89 auxiliary members, and 47 at the cottage. The group, established in 1953, has been diminished in recent years by deaths and sickness.
A new manager for the Economy Cottage was supposed to start work on Jan. 1, but she passed away on Dec. 31.
Some volunteers lost their driver’s licenses and quit because they couldn’t get to the shop anymore.
The cottage got a new automated cash register on July 1 and some volunteers, most of whom are 80 and older, just don’t want to learn how to use it.
“Older women do not want to deal with new technology,” Karen said.
“We’re all getting up there.”
Some volunteers work at both the cottage and the gift shop. Some at just one. Some work once or twice a month, others once or twice a week.
Karen used to work more than full-time hours. Now she just works nights, or shows up and takes out the garbage, takes the recycling to the depot and whatever else is needed.
“I used to do everything,” she said.
She worked at Ridge Meadows Hospital for 28 years, so she knows how important it is to the community.
“It’s prime,” Karen said. “You have to have it. You have people who wouldn’t make it without it.”
Everyone knows someone who has visited the hospital or will, she added.
“We better make sure we have what we need.”
That’s where the auxiliary helps, and by extension the thrift store.
Happy and Joanna Bersaglio have done the front window at the thrift store since January. Shirley Thu did it for the previous 10, but now spends more time with her grandchildren, in addition to making phone calls and signs for the thrift store.
Happy moved to B.C. from “lake country” in Ontario seven years ago, to be closer to her children and grandchildren. She wanted to volunteer, believing that doing so makes for a stronger, better community.
“I want to be with happy people.”
She found that in Karen the moment they met.
“I liked her immediately,” Happy said. “Karen is the BOSS – capital letters.”
Happy also sees the value in helping the hospital.
“It’s an important part of the community.”
So is the auxiliary.
It needs more volunteers, younger ones, and not just women.
“We can always use those male members for garbage detail,” Karen said.